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LLC v. Devine, Millimet & Branch

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

May 6, 2014

ROCKWOOD SELECT ASSET FUND XI (6)-1, LLC, a Utah limited liability company, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
DEVINE, MILLIMET & BRANCH, a New Hampshire Professional Association, Defendant - Appellee

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah. (D.C. No.: 2:13-cv-00044-TS).

Joseph E. Wrona, Wrona Gordon & DuBois, P.C. (Scott A. DuBois, Wrona Gordon & DuBois, P.C., on the briefs), Park City, Utah, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Michael F. Skolnick, Kipp and Christian, P.C. (Andrew R. Hale, Kipp and Christian, P.C., on the briefs), Salt Lake City, Utah, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before GORSUCH, BALDOCK, and BACHARACH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1179

BACHARACH, Circuit Judge.

This appeal involves personal jurisdiction. A Utah company, Rockwood Select Asset Fund XI (6)-1, LLC, was asked to loan money. In considering the request, Rockwood required the borrower to obtain an opinion letter from its New Hampshire law firm, Devine, Millimet & Branch. Devine provided the letter, which was picked up by someone (Todd Enright) and forwarded to Rockwood's owner in Utah. But Rockwood subsequently concluded that the opinion letter contained falsehoods and sued Devine in Utah federal court. The district court dismissed the suit based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Rockwood appeals, and we must decide whether Devine had sufficient contacts with Utah to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction. We conclude that Devine's contacts with Utah were insufficient under two precedential decisions: Walden v. Fiore, __ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 188 L.Ed.2d 12 (2014), and Trierweiler v. Croxton & Trench Holding Corp., 90 F.3d 1523 (10th Cir. 1996). Thus, we affirm.

Personal jurisdiction can be general or specific. Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d 1415, 1418 (10th Cir. 1988). Rockwood relies on specific jurisdiction, which exists only when the suit relates to the defendant's contacts with the forum state. Id.; see Oral Arg. at 3:28-3:32 (Rockwood's disavowal of an argument involving general jurisdiction).

Because the court considered the complaint and affidavits, we engage in de novo review, assuming the truth of Rockwood's allegations that are " plausible, non-conclusory, and non-speculative." Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008).

In engaging in this review, we determine:

o whether Utah law would allow service on Devine and, if so,
o whether service would deprive Devine of due process.

See Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1506-07 (10th Cir. 1995).

Utah law authorizes service to the extent permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. See Utah Code Ann. ยง 78B-3-201(3) (2013) (stating that the Utah long-arm statute " should be applied so as to assert jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the fullest extent permitted by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" ). The resulting question is whether service of process would have deprived Devine of due process. The answer depends on whether Devine ...


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