Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Jurisdictional Discovery Awarded with Respect to Multi-Tier Limited Partnership

Jurisdictional Discovery Awarded with Respect to Multi-Tier Limited Partnership

In a recent decision from Minnesota, jurisdictional discovery with respect to the citizenship of a defendant limited partnership was awarded. Tim-Menn, Inc. v. Tim Horton’s USA, Inc., Case No. 19-CV-409 (JNE/ECW), 2019 WL 2865600 (D. Minn. July 3, 2019).

The plaintiff in this action, Tim-Menn, is a franchisee and area developer for Tim Horton’s Restaurants in Minnesota. Tim Horton USA, Inc. (“THUSA”) is the franchisor for the US-based franchises of Tim Horton’s. Restaurant Brands International Limited Partnership (“RBI”) is apparently the parent of THUSA. What is the nature of any claims Tim-Menn might have against RBI, the apparent shareholder of THUSA, is not detailed in this decision.

At this juncture, the court had twice directed the plaintiff to file information with respect to the citizenship of RBI. Having, based upon the publicly available information, been unable to identify who are the partners in RBI, and in that one of those partners was in turn a Brazilian/USA investment firm with offices in Rio de Janeiro and New York City, the plaintiff requested a stay and jurisdictional discovery so as to ascertain the citizenship of RBI. That motion was resisted by the defendants, largely on grounds of futility. Finding that the plaintiffs had “exhausted all publicly available avenues to determine the identity of RBI’s partners and their citizenship,” setting aside arguments on whether a valid claim had been made until such time as they are presented on a motion to dismiss, discovery as to RBI’s citizenship was allowed.

The opinion has an undercurrent of criticism of defense counsel, it being suggested that if they would come forward with information showing that the limited partnership has a Minnesota citizen, it would be clear that diversity did not exist and the matter would be dismissed.

While the award of jurisdictional discovery after the plaintiff had made a complete investigation of the publicly available information bears similarities to the analysis undertaken in Lincoln Benefit Life Company v. AEI Life, LLC, 2015 WL 5131423 (3rd Cir Sept. 2, 2015), that decision was not cited in this opinion. HERE IS A LINK  to my review of the Lincoln Benefit Life decision.

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