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BAYWATER DRILLING, LLC, V. BENJAMIN RATLIFF
Case Number: 01-19-00706-CV
Court: Court of Appeals
First District of Texas
If you need a Workman’s Compensation in Texas, call at 918-582-6422
Court of Appeals
First District of Texas
Ratliff filed suit against Baywater and three other defendants, including
Hilcorp Energy Company,
alleging that “[a]t all material times” he “was a Jones
Act seaman” employed by Baywater as a floorman aboard the vessel Bayou Blue.
Ratliff asserted that “the Bayou Blue was deployed on navigable inland waters
where [he] was contributing to and aiding such vessel to accomplish its mission.”
1 See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 51.014(a)(7) (permitting interlocutory appeal
from order granting or denying special appearance).
2 The other two defendants are Baywater Drilling Management Partners, LP and
DWB Consulting, LLC. They are not parties to this interlocutory appeal and do
not appear to be integral to the discussion of the issue of personal jurisdictional.
Ratliff claimed that while working aboard the Bayou Blue, he was seriously injured
“when he was required to manually lift large objects in excess of 300 pounds.” He
alleged that he had been required to perform the task “without adequate crew, and
without conducting necessary safety meetings.”
Ratliff sued for damages under the Jones Act,
3 Texas common law, and
under general maritime law. He alleged that the defendants, including Baywater,
had been “negligent and grossly negligent for the following reasons”:
a. failing to properly train employees;
b. failing to inspect, maintain, and repair equipment;
c. fail[ing] to properly supervise their crew;
d. failing to maintain a safe work environment;
e. failing to provide appropriate medical attention;
f. fail[ing] to provide an adequate crew;
g. fail[ing] to maintain the vessel;
h. fail[ing] to provide necessary safety equipment;
i. [being] vicariously liable for their employees’ negligence and gross
j. violating applicable Coast Guard, OSHA, and/or MMS rules and
k. violating their own safety rules and regulations;
l. fail[ing] to comply with contractual obligations and duties; [and]
m. failing to maintain safe mechanisms for work on the vessel[.]
Ratliff also alleged that, “[a]t all relevant times, the Bayou Blue was unseaworthy.”
Baywater filed a special appearance, claiming that the trial court lacked
personal jurisdiction over it and requesting dismissal of the suit. Baywater asserted
that Ratliff’s petition did “not contain a single operative fact that relates this
3 46 U.S.C. § 30104.
litigation to the State of Texas” and did not “establish the requisite ‘substantial
connection’ between Baywater’s contacts with Texas and [Ratliff’s] alleged
Baywater supported its special appearance with the affidavit of Lisa
Williams, Baywater’s vice president of administration. Williams testified in her
affidavit that Baywater “is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal
place of business in Houma, Louisiana, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.” She
averred that Baywater has no offices in Texas, owns no property here, “does not
maintain bank accounts, assets, books or records in Texas,” does not pay taxes in
Texas, and “is not registered or qualified to do business” in the state.
Williams also testified that “[t]he alleged accident that forms the basis of
this litigation occurred in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.” She averred that
Baywater “performs all company and employee training in Louisiana.” Williams
stated that Baywater’s “inland barge rigs, including the Bayou Blue only work and
only have worked in the waters of Louisiana.” Williams testified that “the vast
majority of Baywater’s work and resulting revenue stems from its inland barge rig
work, which occurs exclusively in Louisiana.”
After taking Williams’s deposition, Ratliff filed a response to Baywater’s
special appearance. Citing Williams’s deposition testimony, Ratliff claimed that
the trial court had personal jurisdiction over Baywater. Ratliff did not specify
whether Texas courts had specific jurisdiction, general jurisdiction, or both over
Baywater, but the substance of Ratliff’s arguments indicated that he was claiming
that Texas courts had general jurisdiction over Baywater. Ratliff asserted that,
“taken as a whole, Baywater’s associations and contacts with the state of Texas
[were] more than sufficient to satisfy the requirements” for the trial court “to
exercise personal jurisdiction over Baywater.” Ratliff claimed Williams’s
testimony had shown, for instance, that Baywater had solicited business in Texas
and had contracted with operators in the state.
Baywater replied to Ratliff’s response. Baywater asserted that Ratliff had not
shown that Baywater was subject to general jurisdiction in Texas. Baywater
claimed that Baywater’s connections to Texas cited by Ratliff were attenuated and
not “so continuous and systematic as to render it essentially at home” in Texas, a
necessary requirement for Baywater to be subject to general jurisdiction in the
Ratliff filed a surreply to Baywater’s reply. Ratliff “acknowledged that [the
trial court] cannot exercise general jurisdiction over Baywater.” Instead, Ratliff
claimed that the trial court had specific jurisdiction over Baywater.
Ratliff supported his specific-jurisdiction argument by relying on the
Daywork Workover Contract (“the Workover Contract”) between Baywater and
Hilcorp Energy, a Texas-based company. The Workover Contract provides that
Hilcorp engaged Baywater as an independent contractor “to work over or complete
. . . designated well or wells in search of oil or gas on a daywork basis.” Baywater
agreed to provide “workover rigs” to Hilcorp Energy, including the Bayou Blue,
“for the purpose of working over said wells and performing related and auxiliary
operations and services for [Hilcorp] at the locations to be specified by [Hilcorp].”
The contract also required Baywater to provide daily drilling reports to Hilcorp
about the work being performed at the wellsite and to provide incident reports to
Hilcorp following accidents on the rigs.
Ratliff also relied on Williams’s deposition to show specific jurisdiction.
Williams had testified that Hilcorp had a company representative on the Bayou
Blue known as “the company man,” who was “the highest-ranking official at the
well-site.” Ratliff pointed to the following portion of Williams’s testimony:
Q. You would agree with me that in the day-to-day operations of the
Bayou Blue, for example, in May of 2018 [when the accident
occurred], Baywater had to answer to Hilcorp, right?
Q. . . . In May of 2018, Baywater had to answer to a Texas based
entity on a day-to-day basis as it relates to the operations of the Bayou
A. They would—it depended—they would go through the company
man, or it could be a different circumstance where they had to
communicate directly with somebody in Texas.
Q. As far as you understand, Baywater would have to communicate
with a Texas-based entity or a Texas-based entity’s representative on
a day-to-day basis as it relates to operations of the Bayou Blue, right?
A. That’s correct.
Q. Okay. As far as Baywater understands, a Texas-based entity or that
Texas-based entity’s representative actually handles the work site in
which my client was injured, correct?
. . .
Citing the Workover Contract and Williams’s testimony, Ratliff asserted that
“this litigation arises out of Baywater’s contacts with Texas” because “Baywater
entered into [the Workover Contract] with a Texas-based entity, key day-to-day
decisions came from Texas, reports of the operations and the incident were
directed to Texas and Texas-based entities, and Baywater and its employees
(including [Ratliff]) were subject to Texas citizens working for Texas-based
companies.” Ratliff also noted that Baywater and Hilcorp had agreed that “the
venue of any litigation between the parties [Baywater and Hilcorp] shall be in
Harris County, Texas.”
The trial court conducted a hearing on Baywater’s special appearance. To
refute Ratliff’s reliance on the Workover Contract to establish specific jurisdiction,
Baywater pointed out that this was not a breach of contract suit between Baywater
and Hilcorp. Baywater argued that the “operative facts” of Ratliff’s personal injury
claims “have nothing to do with Texas” because, relating to Ratliff’s claims,
“everything was done in Louisiana.”
Following the hearing, the trial court signed an order denying Baywater’s
special appearance. Baywater filed this interlocutory appeal, challenging the trial
court’s order in two issues.
A. Standard of Review & Legal Principles
Whether a trial court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant
is a question of law that we review de novo. Old Republic Nat’l Title Ins. Co. v.
Bell, 549 S.W.3d 550, 558 (Tex. 2018). “When, as here, the trial court does not
issue findings of fact and conclusions of law, we imply all relevant facts necessary
to support the judgment that are supported by evidence.” Moncrief Oil Int’l, Inc. v.
OAO Gazprom, 414 S.W.3d 142, 150 (Tex. 2013). When jurisdictional facts are
undisputed, whether those facts establish jurisdiction is a question of law. Bell, 549
S.W.3d at 558 (citing Tex. Dep’t of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217,
226 (Tex. 2004)).
In the context of a special appearance, the parties bear shifting evidentiary
burdens. The plaintiff bears the initial burden of pleading allegations that suffice to
permit a court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant.
Retamco Operating, Inc. v. Republic Drilling Co., 278 S.W.3d 333, 337 (Tex.
2009). Once the plaintiff has met this burden, the defendant then assumes the
burden of negating all potential bases for personal jurisdiction alleged by the
plaintiff. Kelly v. Gen. Interior Constr., Inc., 301 S.W.3d 653, 658 (Tex. 2010).
The defendant can negate jurisdiction on either a factual or legal basis. Id. at
659. A defendant negates the legal basis for jurisdiction by showing that “if the
plaintiff’s alleged facts are true, the evidence is legally insufficient to establish
jurisdiction; the defendant’s contacts . . . fall short of purposeful availment; . . . the
claims do not arise from the contacts; or . . . traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice are offended by the exercise of jurisdiction.” Id.
If the nonresident defendant produces evidence negating personal
jurisdiction, the burden returns to the plaintiff to show that the court has personal
jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. Predator Downhole Inc. v. Flotek
Indus., Inc., 504 S.W.3d 394, 402 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.).
A court should dismiss a lawsuit against a nonresident defendant if the exercise of
personal jurisdiction lacks an adequate factual or legal basis. Id.
Texas courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident if “(1) the
Texas long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction, and (2) the exercise
of jurisdiction is consistent with federal and state constitutional due-process
guarantees.” Moncrief Oil Int’l, Inc., 414 S.W.3d at 149; Moki Mac River
Expeditions v. Drugg, 221 S.W.3d 569, 574 (Tex. 2007). The long-arm statute
permits Texas courts to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant that
“does business” in Texas, and it provides a non-exhaustive list of activities that
constitute “doing business.” TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 17.042
Here, Ratliff asserts that Baywater engaged in conduct that satisfies the
Texas long-arm statute. He points to the statute’s provisions stating that “a
nonresident does business in this state” if it “contracts with a Texas resident and
either party is to perform the contract in whole or in part in this state” or the
nonresident “recruits Texas residents, directly or through an intermediary located
in this state, for employment inside or outside this state.” See TEX. CIV. PRAC. &
REM. CODE § 17.042(1), (3). However, the long-arm statute extends the personal
jurisdiction of Texas courts only as far as the federal constitutional requirements of
due process permit. M & F Worldwide Corp. v. Pepsi-Cola Metro. Bottling Co.,
Inc., 512 S.W.3d 878, 885 (Tex. 2017).
To comport with due process requirements, the record must show that (1) the
defendant established minimum contacts with the forum state; and (2) the assertion
of jurisdiction will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
Id. (internal quotation omitted). “Sufficient minimum contacts exist when the
nonresident defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting
activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its
laws.” Searcy v. Parex Res., Inc., 496 S.W.3d 58, 67 (quotation marks omitted).
Purposeful availment involves contacts that the defendant purposefully directed
into the forum state. Id. (citing Guardian Royal Exch. Assurance, Ltd. v. English
China Clays, P.L.C., 815 S.W.2d 223, 228 (Tex. 1991)).
The Supreme Court of Texas has identified three distinct aspects of the
“purposeful availment” requirement. First, only the defendant’s contacts with the
forum are relevant, as a nonresident should not be called to court in a jurisdiction
solely as a result of the unilateral activity of another party. Michiana Easy Livin’
Country, Inc. v. Holten, 168 S.W.3d 777, 785 (Tex. 2005). Second, the defendant’s
acts must be purposeful, as opposed to random, isolated, or fortuitous. Id. Third,
the defendant must seek some benefit, advantage, or profit by availing itself of the
“A defendant’s contacts with the forum may give rise to either general or
specific jurisdiction.” M & F Worldwide Corp., 512 S.W.3d at 885. In this case,
Ratliff contends that Baywater’s alleged minimum contacts give rise to specific
jurisdiction in Texas. Specific jurisdiction requires that the claims at issue arise
from or relate to the defendant’s purposeful contacts with Texas. Searcy, 496
S.W.3d at 67. “[T]he defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial
connection with the forum State.” Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284 (2014). This
connection “must arise out of contacts that the defendant himself creates with the
forum State,” and it must be based on “the defendant’s contacts with the forum
State itself, not the defendant’s contacts with persons who reside there.” Id. at 284–
85 (emphasis in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) “The
‘minimum-contacts analysis is focused on the quality and nature of the defendant’s
contacts, rather than their number.’” Searcy, 496 S.W.3d at 67 (quoting Retamco,
278 S.W.3d at 339). The defendant’s activities, whether they consist of direct acts
within Texas or conduct outside Texas, must justify a conclusion that the defendant
could reasonably anticipate being called into a Texas court. Retamco Operating,
278 S.W.3d at 338.
In its second issue, Baywater contends that, based on the allegations in
Ratliff’s petition and the evidence in the record, the trial court erred when it denied
its special appearance.
4 Among its arguments, Baywater asserts that it does not
have the required minimum contacts with Texas to be subject to specific personal
jurisdiction because it did not purposefully avail itself of the privilege of
conducting activities in Texas related to Ratliff’s negligence and unseaworthiness
In its first issue, Baywater contends that Ratliff did not sufficiently plead
jurisdictional allegations in his petition. We need not address this argument
because, as discussed infra, we agree with the Baywater that, considering all the
allegations and evidence in the record, Texas courts lack specific personal
jurisdiction over Baywater. See M & F Worldwide Corp. v. Pepsi-Cola Metro.
Bottling Co., Inc., 512 S.W.3d 878, 886 n.10 (Tex. 2017) (stating that court need
not reach appellants’ alternate argument that plaintiff had not sufficiently pleaded
jurisdictional facts because, after considering all record evidence, Texas courts did
not have jurisdiction over appellants).
causes of action.
5 Ratliff counters that the trial court has specific personal
jurisdiction over Baywater based on conduct related to the Workover Contract
between Baywater and Texas-based Hilcorp Energy, under which the Bayou Blue
was operating in Louisiana when Ratliff was injured.
It is well-established that merely contracting with a Texas resident does not
satisfy the minimum contacts requirement. Jay Zabel & Assocs., Ltd. v. Compass
Bank, 527 S.W.3d 545, 554 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2017, no pet.); see
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 478 (1985) (“If the question is
whether an individual’s contract with an out-of-state party alone can automatically
establish sufficient minimum contacts in the other party’s home forum, we believe
5 Ratliff asserts that Baywater waived its jurisdictional challenge to his
unseaworthiness claim because Baywater did not specifically mention that claim
in its special-appearance filings. We disagree. In its special appearance, Baywater
asserted that it is not subject to specific jurisdiction for Ratliff’s “claims.”
Baywater indicated that Ratliff asserted claims under general maritime law, which,
here, include an unseaworthiness claim. See Adams v. Starside Custom Builders,
LLC, 547 S.W.3d 890, 896 (Tex. 2018) (recognizing that “[r]ules of error
preservation should not be applied so strictly as to unduly restrain appellate courts
from reaching the merits of a case”). We note that “specific jurisdiction requires us
to analyze jurisdictional contacts on a claim-by-claim basis.” Moncrief Oil Int’l,
Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, 414 S.W.3d 142, 150 (Tex. 2013). But “a court need not
assess contacts on a claim-by-claim basis if all claims arise from the same forum
contacts.” Id. at 150–51. “A claim of negligence under the Jones Act and a claim
of unseaworthiness under general maritime law are two separate and distinct
claims.” Offshore Pipelines, Inc. v. Schooley, 984 S.W.2d 654, 658 (Tex. App.—
Houston [1st Dist.] 1998, no pet.). However, here, Ratliff did not indicate that his
negligence and unseaworthiness claims arose from different forum contacts,
therefore, we need not analyze them separately. See Moncrief Oil Int’l, Inc., 414
S.W.3d at 150–51.
the answer clearly is that it cannot.”). “To evaluate purposeful availment with
respect to contracting with a Texas resident, courts have considered such factors as
prior negotiations, contemplated future consequences, terms of the contract, and
the parties’ actual course of dealing to determine whether the defendant
purposefully established minimum contacts with the forum.” Jay Zabel & Assocs.,
Ltd., 527 S.W.3d at 555.
Ratliff points to Williams’s deposition testimony in which she
acknowledged that Baywater traveled to Houston “from time to time” to procure
new business or to foster “existing business relationship with Texas entities” in
order to maintain a “stream of revenue.” When asked whether that “include[d]
customers or operators like Hilcorp Energy Company,” Williams answered
affirmatively. However, neither the cited testimony nor any other evidence
provides information about prior communications, negotiations, course of dealing,
or other information regarding the parties’ conduct in developing and executing the
Workover Contract, which is the relevant inquiry for a specific-jurisdiction
analysis. See Walden, 571 U.S. at 284 (stating that in specific-jurisdiction analysis,
“the defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the
forum State” (emphasis added)).
We are mindful that “[e]ven a sustained contractual relationship with a
Texas resident does not support the exercise of jurisdiction if the contract is
centered around the nonresident’s ‘operations outside Texas.’” Univ. of Ala. v.
Suder Found., No. 05-16-00691-CV, 2017 WL 655948, at *6 (Tex. App.—Dallas
Feb. 17, 2017, no pet.) (quoting McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d 753,760 (5th Cir.
2009)). Here, the record shows that the hub of the Workover Contract was centered
on Baywater’s drilling services, which the evidence showed were provided in
The Workover Contract states that Hilcorp engaged Baywater “to work over
or complete . . . designated well or wells in search of oil or gas on a daywork
basis.” Baywater agreed to provide personnel and three inland barge rigs, including
the Bayou Blue, to Hilcorp “for the purpose of working over said wells and
performing related and auxiliary operations and services for [Hilcorp] at the
locations to be specified by [Hilcorp].” The location specified by Hilcorp for the
Bayou Blue to perform its drilling operations was Hilcorp’s wellsite in Terrebonne
Parish, Louisiana. Williams stated in her affidavit that Baywater’s “inland barge
rigs, including the Bayou Blue[,] only work and only have worked in the waters of
Ratliff asserts that “Hilcorp was to provide part performance [under the
Workover Contract] in Texas, including identifying well locations, providing
notices of work suspensions, identifying well depths, providing payments, and
preparing [the work] locations[.]” However, these decisions and activities by
Hilcorp in Texas facilitated and defined the performance of the Workover Contract
by Baywater in Louisiana, not in Texas. And performance by Hilcorp of its
contractual duties in Texas does not constitute purposeful contacts by Baywater in
Texas. See Turner Schilling, L.L.P. v. Gaunce Mgmt., Inc., 247 S.W.3d 447, 456
(Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.) (concluding that other party’s performance of
contractual duties in Texas does not constitute purposeful contact by defendant in
Texas); see also Moncrief Oil Int’l, Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, 481 F.3d 309, 312 (5th
Cir. 2007) (determining that contracting with resident of forum state, combined
with contract performance by resident party in forum state, did not establish
minimum contacts when non-resident defendant did not perform any of its own
contractual obligations in forum state, contract did not require performance there,
and purpose or “hub” of contract was centered in Russia).
Ratliff also cites provisions in the Workover Contract requiring Baywater to
comply with specified safety procedures, practices, and protocols in conjunction
with providing the drilling services under the Workover Contract. He asserts that,
based on the factual allegations in his petition, Baywater’s failure to comply with
the contractual safety requirements provides a basis for his negligence and
Ratliff does not contend that any of Baywater’s alleged acts or omissions
violating the contractual safety requirements occurred in Texas. It is not in dispute
that Baywater’s alleged tortious conduct resulting in Ratliff’s injuries occurred in
Louisiana at the wellsite where Baywater was providing drilling services to
Hilcorp. Instead, to forge a connection with Texas, Ratliff points to a provision in
the Workover Contract requiring Baywater’s representatives to meet with Hilcorp
at its Houston, Texas office following the occurrence of an “OSHA recordable
incident” to perform a review of the incident. Ratliff also cites a provision
requiring Baywater to send daily work reports to Hilcorp. And Ratliff points to
Williams’s deposition testimony in which she agreed that, in May of 2018,
“Baywater had to answer to [Hilcorp,] a Texas based entity[,] on a day-to-day basis
as it relates to the operations of the Bayou Blue.” Regarding the day-to-day
operations, she stated that Baywater would either communicate with Hilcorp’s
“company man” assigned to the Bayou Blue, or Baywater would communicate
directly with Hilcorp in Texas. None of the evidence, however, demonstrates
contacts with Texas resulting from Baywater’s “efforts to avail itself of the forum.”
Moki Mac, 221 S.W.3d at 576. Rather, the evidence shows communications by
Baywater directed to Hilcorp, not the State of Texas, to address matters related to
Baywater’s performance of the contract in Louisiana.
To establish specific jurisdiction, a Texas resident cannot be the only link
between a defendant and Texas. See Walden, 571 U.S. at 284–85. Rather, a
defendant’s conduct must form the necessary connection with Texas. Id. at 285.
Our minimum-contacts analysis must focus on Baywater’s actions and choices to
enter Texas and conduct business here, as opposed to Baywater’s contacts with
Hilcorp. See 11500 Space Ctr., L.L.C. v. Private Capital Grp., Inc., 577 S.W.3d
322, 331 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2019, no pet.) (citing Old Republic, 549
S.W.3d at 561). Because the only link Baywater has with Texas is Hilcorp, not its
own conduct directed at the state, the communications required by the Workover
Contract and cited by Ratliff do not provide the minimum contacts necessary to
establish personal jurisdiction in Texas. See Walden, 571 U.S. at 284–85; Old
Republic, 549 S.W.3d at 561; see also Peredo v. M. Holland Co., 310 S.W.3d 468,
474–75 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, no pet.) (“[A] nonresident does
not establish minimum contacts simply by contracting with a Texas entity and
engaging in numerous communications, by telephone or otherwise, with people in
Texas concerning the contract.”).
As an additional contact with Texas, Ratliff also cites Williams’s deposition
testimony in which she acknowledged that Baywater hires Texas residents.
Williams testified, “[A]ll of our hiring is done out of our Houma, Louisiana,
facility. They can reside in Texas, but they are hired and processed through
Houma, Louisiana. They would have to travel to us to be hired.” The record
contains no evidence or allegation that Ratliff is a Texas resident or that Baywater
hired Ratliff in Texas. Because only a defendant’s suit-related conduct is relevant
to our specific-jurisdiction analysis, Baywater’s general hiring practices do not
establish the required minimum contacts. See Walden, 571 U.S. at 284–85; see also
Chery v. Bowman, 901 F.2d 1053, 1056–57 (11th Cir. 1990) (holding Florida court
had no personal jurisdiction over Virginia resident when Florida resident went to
Virginia to find work and was hired by Virginia defendant).
Finally, Ratliff asserts that the following choice-of-law and venue-selection
provision in the Workover Contract demonstrates that Baywater purposefully
availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities within Texas:
This agreement shall be construed and enforced in accordance with
the general maritime law of the United States whenever any
performance is contemplated in, on, or above navigable waters,
whether onshore or offshore. In all other instances, the internal laws
of the State of Texas shall apply, without considering any conflict of
law principles. The venue of any litigation between the parties shall be
in Harris County, Texas.
The provision’s express language states that the venue clause applies to “any
litigation between the parties.” Reasonably interpreted, the clause applies only to
litigation between the parties to the Workover Contract, which are Baywater and
Hilcorp. From this, it follows that Baywater would not have reasonably anticipated
6 Ratliff filed the instant suit in county court in Galveston County. He asserted that
venue was proper in Galveston County “because the events giving rise to the claim
[occurred] on inland waters outside the State of Texas, and [Ratliff] did not reside
in Harris County at the time of the accident.” See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE §
15.0181(e)(3) (providing that, when filing Jones Act suit in Texas state court, suit
shall be brought “in Galveston County unless the plaintiff resided in Harris County
at the time the cause of action accrued” when “all or a substantial part of the
events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred on inland waters outside
litigating disputes with third parties in Texas, particularly when the litigation
involves a tort claim based on an incident in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. See
Freudensprung v. Offshore Tech. Servs., Inc., 379 F.3d 327, 345 (5th Cir. 2007)
(“[E]ven if [the defendant] may have expected to arbitrate disputes between itself
and [Offshore] in Texas, it does not concomitantly follow that [the defendant]
reasonably anticipated being haled into Texas court to defend a lawsuit brought by
Freudensprung or any other non-party to the contract.”). Therefore, because the
claims here are outside the scope of the venue-selection clause, Baywater “did not
impliedly consent to being subject to the jurisdiction of the Texas courts for the
adjudication of this particular dispute, and the [venue-selection] provision at issue
does not impact our jurisdictional analysis.” Id.
The choice-of-law clause provides that general maritime law applies
“whenever any performance is contemplated in, on, or above navigable waters,
whether onshore or offshore.” Texas law applies “[i]n all other instances.”
The Workover Contract provides that Baywater will supply three inland
barge rigs, including the Bayou Blue, to Hilcorp. The record indicates that Ratliff’s
alleged injuries occurred while the Bayou Blue was operating under the Workover
Contract. Ratliff’s petition asserts that while he was assigned to the Bayou Blue, he
was a Jones Act seaman. He alleges that, “[a]t all material times, the Bayou Blue
was deployed on navigable inland waters[.]”
Based on the limited jurisdictional record, it appears that performance of the
contract—at least as it relates to Baywater’s supplying of the Bayou Blue and its
crew when Ratliff was allegedly injured—was “contemplated in, on, or above
navigable waters.” For purposes of our analysis here, Baywater would not have
reasonably anticipated that Texas law applied. The choice-of-law provision does
not weigh in favor of finding specific jurisdiction in this case. See Burger King
Corp., 471 U.S. at 482 (stating that choice-of law clauses are relevant, but “such a
provision standing alone would be insufficient to confer jurisdiction” over
Based on the record, we conclude that Baywater did not purposefully avail
itself of the privilege of conducting activities in Texas. Thus, Baywater does not
have the requisite minimum contacts with Texas to be subject to specific personal
jurisdiction in this forum. We hold that the trial court erred when it denied
Baywater’s special appearance.
We sustain Baywater’s second issue.
Outcome: We reverse the trial court’s order denying Baywater’s special appearance
and render judgment dismissing Ratliff’s claims against Baywater for lack of