Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Fired Koch Exec Fights to Advance Kidnapping Suit

(CN) - Billionaire industrialist William Koch is trying "to mislead" the court into dismissing kidnapping claims, the fired executive who is suing him said Thursday.

Kirby Martensen sued Koch initially in October 2012 in the Northern District of California, but Koch has cried improper venue since the alleged kidnapping occurred in Colorado and since he maintains a residence in Florida.

Martensen said Koch lured him and five other executives of the Koch-owned Oxbow Group to his Aspen Ranch on the pretense of a company getaway and then fired them. Before Koch shipped them back to California, however, each executive faced several hours of interrogation at Bear Ranch, guarded by a private security detail and local police, according to the complaint.

Though Martensen attributes his ordeal to having learned of a plot by Oxbow to evade $200 million a year in federal taxes, Koch says Martensen was fired for defrauding the company.

The original complaint was dismissed on March 1 and Martensen then amended it to establish proper venue.

After Koch again challenged venue on March 28, Martensen claimed in an opposition brief Thursday that it is evident he "felt" most of the harm from the alleged kidnapping in California.

Martensen described these emotional distress damages in a declaration filed with his opposition and said he could amend his complaint again to "add additional allegations regarding the damages that extended well beyond the time he was falsely imprisoned."

"The law in the Ninth Circuit is well established that the court should consider both the place where the allegedly tortious conduct occurred and the place where the harms were felt," his brief states.

He also noted that the first amended complaint makes this clear where it says, "As a result of the acts and omissions alleged herein Martensen has suffered, and continues to suffer, general damages including fear, anxiety, humiliation and emotional distress in an amount above $75,000 to be determined according to proof." (Emphasis in motion.)

"There is no requirement that the 'most substantial part' occurred in the district in which suit is filed; 'substantial part' is all that is required," Martensen added.

While the false imprisonment began in Colorado, "most of the participants at the two-day event at Bear Ranch traveled from California and Florida to Colorado," the brief states.

Noting that he stayed rooted in California, Martensen likewise called it "irrelevant" that Oxbow had stationed him in Singapore just before his Aspen firing.

"Defendant appears to confuse the concept of 'domicile' with 'residence,'" the brief states. "To the extent that plaintiff's domicile is relevant to the venue analysis; he was domiciled in Berkeley at all relevant times."

Martensen said he also "surprised" by Koch's continued emphasis of his own Florida residency, noting that Koch "purposefully has availed himself of the protections furnished by California law" and "personally filed a civil complaint the Los Angeles Superior Court" in 2009.

What's more, the complaint accuses Koch of having "participated and directed the false imprisonment." It notes as an example that Koch himself greeted Martensen at Bear Ranch with the news "that there was no cell reception or internet access."

"If this court questions whether it has personal jurisdiction over Mr. Koch, plaintiff requests leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery," Martensen wrote, saying that deposition of Koch should not last more than two hours.

Martensen is represented by John Houston Scott of The Scott Law Firm.

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