Personal Jurisdiction Decision by Missouri Supreme Court to Significantly Impact Asbestos Litigation in Missouri

St. Louis City, Missouri is often termed a “judicial hellhole” for corporate defendants in product liability actions, most notably in asbestos litigation. Until recently, Missouri courts offered little guidance on what constituted general jurisdiction for corporate defendants in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014). In Daimler, the Supreme Court held that absent exceptional circumstances, a company is only subject to general jurisdiction in its state of formation or where it has its principal place of business, i.e., where it is “at home. On February 28, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion clarifying Missouri’s position on general personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations in light of Daimler. State ex rel. Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Dolan involved a personal injury ...
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NYCAL Justices Appointed to First Department-Appellate Division

On May 22, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) Supreme Court Justices Cynthia S. Kern and Peter H. Moulton to the First Department-Appellate Division. Associate Justice Rolando Acosta was designated to the Presiding Justice of this Appellate Division and Supreme Court Justices Jeffrey Oing and Anil Singh will fill the remaining Associate Justice vacancies. The First Department covers New York and Bronx Counties. Justice Cynthia S. Kern has been a justice in the 1st Judicial District of the Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County since her election in 2011.  Justice Peter H. Moulton has been serving as both the Administrative Judge, 1st Judicial District of the Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County and the Coordinating Judge of NYCAL since March 2015. ...
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Action Dismissed Against Canadian Automotive Defendant Based on Lack of Specific Jurisdiction U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, May 17, 2017

The plaintiffs filed suit against multiple defendants alleging Mr. Hodjera’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to the defendants’ products from 1986-94. Volkswagen of Canada (VWGC) moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. The court started its analysis by stating that due process requires the court to have personal jurisdiction over the defendant before it can adjudicate a claim. General jurisdiction is available when the defendant’s “contacts are so constant and pervasive as to render it essentially at home.” The court quickly found that it lacked general jurisdiction over VWGC. However, a defendant might also be sued if it has minimal contacts in a forum when the complaint arises out of those contacts by specific jurisdiction. The court will not exercise specific jurisdiction over the defendant ...
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No Jurisdiction over Foreign Auto Manufacturer, But Case Remanded for Consideration of Jurisdictional Discovery Florida District Court of Appeal, Second District May 17, 2017

Plaintiffs Kenneth and Carol Jones filed suit against various defendants after Kenneth Jones developed mesothelioma. Defendant Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (VWAG) sought review of an interlocutory order denying its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded. In its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, VWAG submitted a supporting affidavit and the court held an evidentiary hearing to determine this issue. The hearing had no testimony and the trial court received nothing into evidence. The trial court ruled, without providing statements regarding its rationale, that specific jurisdiction existed. At the outset the court noted that VWAG did not waive the defense of personal jurisdiction. The plaintiff conceded that general jurisdiction did not exist, and adequately alleged both specific jurisdiction under Florida’s ...
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Summary Judgments Based on Wisconsin Safe Place Statute and Statute of Repose Denied U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin, May 15, 2017

The court issued another decision in a case originally reported in Asbestos Case Tracker on May 15, 2017. Plaintiffs Daniel and Beverly Ahnert originally filed a case in 2010 alleging Daniel Ahnert developed asbestosis; that case was transferred to the MDL of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 2013 Beverly Ahnert filed a new case in the Eastern District of Wisconsin after Daniel Ahnert died of asbestos-related diseases. In September 2014, the 2011 case was remanded back to Wisconsin. The plaintiff then moved to consolidate the 2010 case with the 2013 case. The court deferred the ruling until outstanding motions for summary judgment were decided in the 2013 case. After various rulings, in March 2017 this court denied the pending summary judgment motions and granted plaintiff’s motion to consolidate. Here, ...
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Sufficient Exposure Found to Reverse Prior Summary Judgment Decision in Favor of Asbestos Supplier Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, May 17, 2017

In October 2010, the plaintiff, Thomasina Fowler, individually and as administrator of the estate of Willis Edenfield (the decedent), brought a wrongful death and product liability action in the Superior Court of New Jersey against various defendants. The plaintiff alleged the decedent passed away from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure associated with defendants’ products. The complaint was filed after the decedent’s death and he was never deposed. Therefore, during discovery, the plaintiff produced two witnesses to testify as to the decedent’s occupational history. The decedent worked at a chemical plant from 1954-94, which manufactured asbestos-containing adhesive products. The defendant supplier, along with other supply companies, allegedly supplied asbestos to this chemical plant. One fact-witness, Rodney Dover, testified that asbestos was present at the facility and recalled the defendant as one ...
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Multi-Million Dollar Jury Verdict Against Ford Vacated Based on Defective Jury Verdict Form Court of Appeals of Tennessee, May 12, 2017

In this secondary exposure case alleging mesothelioma, defendant Ford Motor Company appealed after the jury rendered a verdict against it for $3.4 million. The appellate court vacated the trial court’s judgment on the jury verdict and remanded the case because the jury verdict form was defective, in that it omitted two necessary questions in product liability cases — that the product at issue was unreasonably dangerous or defective and that the plaintiff’s injuries were reasonably foreseeable. Plaintiff Ronnie Stockton was an automobile mechanic since 1971. He had his own shop where he worked on Ford vehicles. His wife, Joyce Stockton, cleaned the shop and laundered his clothes. The plaintiffs initially filed suit in Illinois, where Ford was dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds. The plaintiffs then filed suit in Tennessee. ...
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Deere Granted Summary Judgment Based on Speculation Tractor Contained Asbestos Parts it Manufactured Superior Court of Delaware, May 10, 2017

The Superior Court of Delaware issued another ruling in a case reported in Asbestos Case Tracker on May 15, 2017. In this ruling, the court granted defendant Deere & Company’s motion for summary judgment. The decedent died from lung cancer. Counsel stipulated that his asbestos exposure occurred from 1955-79. Prior to his death, the decedent gave a deposition stating that he worked on “older” John Deere tractors from 1953-79. This work included grinding head gaskets once per year or every other year. Replacement parts came from John Deere dealers. He also changed clutches on older Deere tractors and performed some brake work. Deere argued the decedent affirmed multiple times that he did not work on Deere farm equipment until after 1979. Further, there was no evidence that decedent changed the ...
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No New Facts Alleged in Plaintiff’s Motion for Reargument; Reargument Denied Superior Court of Delaware, May 11, 2017

On February 2, 2017 the Superior Court of Delaware granted defendant Georgia Southern University Advanced Development Center’s (Herty) motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs since filed a motion for reargument and reconsideration of that order. Dorothy Ramsey alleged that Herty, a manufacturer of an asbestos paper product, negligently failed to warn her of the risks of take-home asbestos exposure due to her husband’s workplace exposure from 1976-80. The plaintiff alleged that Herty’s failure to warn of the danger was a proximate cause of the decedent’s lung cancer. A motion for reargument under Delaware Superior Court Civil Rule 59(e) permits the court to reconsider “its findings of fact, conclusions of law, or judgment. …” “Delaware law places a heavy burden on a [party] seeking relief pursuant to Rule 59.” To prevail ...
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Ford Granted Summary Judgement in Two Automotive/Tractor Cases in Delaware Superior Court of Delaware, May 10, 2017

Ford was granted summary judgment in two matters pending in the Superior Court of Delaware. First, plaintiff Paul Norris brought suit against Ford Motor Company alleging that he developed an asbestos related disease as a result of his occupational and non-occupational exposure to asbestos while performing work on Ford brakes, clutches, and gaskets. The plaintiff started working on his father’s farm in 1960, which included work on a Ford tractor. The plaintiff testified that the new brakes and clutches used for his tractor work were purchased from a Ford dealer. Additionally, he believed the 1960 Ford tractor was new. The plaintiff also testified that he performed engine work on his personal vehicles, including Ford vehicles. Based on Mr. Norris’ testimony, Ford filed for summary judgment. The Superior Court of Delaware ...
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Decedent’s Work Falls Outside Wisconsin’s Statute of Repose; Summary Judgment Denied U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, May 11, 2017

This matter stems from a series of filings. In 2010, plaintiffs Daniel and Beverly Ahnert filed an asbestosis claim on February 25, 2010. That case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Two and a half years later, Beverly Ahnert, as the executrix of the estate of Danial Ahnert, filed a new complaint in the Easter District of Wisconsin alleging that Daniel Ahnert passed away as a result of an asbestos related disease. This matter deals with defendant Sprinkmann Sons, Inc. and Employers Insurance Company of Wisconsin’s Motion for summary judgment on issues not addressed in the case pending in the MDL in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, specifically causation and punitive damages. The remaining issue related to the application of the Wisconsin Construction Statute of ...
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