Bulkley & Associates, LLC is a Hopkins County, Texas, company that transports refrigerated goods interstate.
In 2015, a Bulkley truck driver fell off a truck and was injured while delivering goods to a customer in Salinas, California.
Defendant Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the State of California, cited Bulkley and assessed penalties for three violations of California health and safety law: (1) failing to timely report an injury to California authorities, (2) failing to develop an injury-prevention program compliant with California law, and (3) failing to require foot protection in accordance with California law.
Bulkley pursued administrative appeals in California, disputing the Department’s authority to require Bulkley to comply with California law. Bulkley lost and has since filed two lawsuits challenging the Department’s authority.
Bulkley I began in 2018, when Bulkley filed a petition for mandamus in Hopkins County court, seeking judicial review of the California administrative appeal that Bulkley lost. The Department removed the petition to federal court, and promptly moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Bulkley argued that the Texas court had personal jurisdiction because Bulkley is a Texas resident and because the California law authorizing judicial review of agency action directs litigants to the county court where they reside.
Bulkley also argued that the Department had minimum contacts with Texas because the citations “penalized Bulkley for its work rules and procedures, which were created and implemented in Texas.” They did not prevail in Bulkley I.
After Bulkley I and before Bulkley II, in August 2019, the Department sent Bulkley a letter to collect the unpaid penalties of $6,180, informing Bulkley that the Department would pursue a judgment in California court if Bulkley failed to pay. On September 9, 2019, the Department sent Bulkley another letter, referencing violations of California law “observed during the inspection completed on 09/04/2015 [at] the place of employment” “maintained by” Bulkley and located in Salinas, California.
Bulkley sought and obtained injunctive relief in Hopkins County court (commencing Bulkley II, the current case), pointing to the September 9, 2019 letter as proof that the Department had possibly inspected Bulkley in Texas and was threatening to do so again.
The Department again removed the action to federal court and again moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court again concluded the Department lacked minimum contacts and dismissed Bulkley’s complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal in the case of Bulkley & Associates, L.L.C., v Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the State of California.
The Department did not establish minimum contacts solely by way of sending the September 2019 letter. And the possibility that the Department has inspected or will inspect Bulkley in Texas does not establish minimum contacts. It does not matter if the Department’s letter instructed Bulkley to remedy violations of California law, which Bulkley could only do by changing its policies in Texas.