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01/17/80 J. Willard Nalls, Jr., As v. Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited

January 17, 1980

JOHN C. ABRAHAM, DECEASED

v.

ROLLS-ROYCE (1971) LIMITED, AEROSPATIALE (SOCIETE NATIONAL INDUSTRIELLE AEROSPATIALE), ET AL.; CAROL E.

CHINNIP. RAMAMURTI

v.

ROLLS-ROYCE LIMITED, AEROSPATIALE



Before BAZELON, Senior Circuit Judge, and McGOWAN and ROBB, Circuit Judges.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT 1980.CDC.7

J. WILLARD NALLS, JR., as Administrator for the Estate of

RAMAMURTI, as Administratrix for the Estate of

(SOCIETE NATIONAL INDUSTRIELLE

AEROSPATIALE), ET

AL.

Petition for Rehearing En Banc Denied March 8, 1983

MEMORANDUM

An Indian Airlines commercial flight from Bombay to Madras crashed shortly after takeoff on October 12, 1976. The plane was manufactured by the French corporation Societe National Industrielle Aerospatiale (Aerospatiale). It was powered by Avon RA.29 MK 531 engines, designed and manufactured by Rolls-Royce, Ltd. (Rolls-Royce), a British corporation based in London.

Plaintiffs-appellees are administrators of the estates of two persons killed in the crash. One of the administrators lives in the State of Washington; and the other, in Maryland. Defendants are Air India, Inc. (an Indian corporation alleged to be responsible for the maintenance of the plane that crashed), Aerospatiale, Indian Airlines, and Rolls-Royce. Appellees alleged various causes of action based on negligence and breach of express and implied warranties.

The sole issue now before this court, in an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1292(b) from the District Court's denial of a motion to dismiss, is whether Rolls-Royce is subject to suit in the District of Columbia. Rolls-Royce itself has no offices or facilities in the District. It is not authorized to do business here, and it neither advertises nor maintains a telephone listing here. Appellees did not serve process directly on Rolls-Royce, but rather on Rolls-Royce, Inc. . RRI is a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Holdings North America, Ltd., which in turn is a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce. RRI maintains an office, staffed by six employees, in the District of Columbia.

The principal theory *fn1 under which Rolls-Royce seeks dismissal is that RRI's presence here is protected by the "government contacts" exception to the jurisdictional statute. RRI's Washington, D.C., employees spend much of their time providing "technical information" to users of Rolls-Royce engines. We shall refer to these activities as "customer assistance" work. The remainder of their time is devoted to obtaining information from, and providing information to, regulatory agencies. This aspect of the work we shall call "regulatory liaison."

Customer assistance work in Washington primarily assists branches of the United States military. The Navy and Air Force use the "A-7" aircraft, which is powered by Rolls-Royce's "TF-41" engine; the Marine Corps uses the Rolls-Royce "Pegasus" engine in its "Harrier" aircraft; and the Coast Guard uses Rolls-Royce engines in its Grumman "Gulf Stream One." RRI's Washington employees answer inquiries from the armed services to promote the proper use of the Rolls-Royce engines in these aircraft. Such customer assistance frequently is done by the District of Columbia RRI employees on business trips to military bases. Much of it also occurs by telephone from Washington, D.C. A small amount of customer assistance by RRI's District of Columbia employees is provided to non-governmental users of the Rolls-Royce RB-211 engine, that is used in the Lockheed 1011 (Tri-Star) airplane.

RRI's District of Columbia employees spend the remainder of their time performing regulatory liaison. For example, the office provided the FAA with statistics about noise levels of the Rolls-Royce engines used by the Concorde airplane. RRI also supplied data to the Environmental Protection Agency about engine emissions. RRI's Washington office further serves an information-gathering function. At least one of the employees was expected to obtain, ...


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