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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John Crane Fails to Establish Personal Jurisdiction against Plaintiff’s Firm in Fraud Complaint Filed in Federal Court U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, March 23, 2017

John Crane, Inc. (JCI) filed suit against Benjamin Shein and the Shein Law Center (the defendant) for fraud, alleging that the defendant fraudulently obtained settlements with and verdicts against JCI by misrepresenting the exposure of asbestos plaintiffs to JCI’s products and concealing the plaintiffs’ exposure to products of other manufacturers. The complaint focused on four specific asbestos cases filed against JCI in Pennsylvania in which verdicts were rendered against JCI. It alleged specific behavior done by the defendants, such as delaying filing claims with bankruptcy trusts until after verdicts against JCI were returned, in order to mislead JCI and other asbestos defendants into paying larger verdict sums. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss on various grounds, including lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction. The court granted the motion ...
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John Crane Fails to Establish Personal Jurisdiction in RICO Claim Against Plaintiff Law Firm

Plaintiff John Crane Inc. brought a six-count complaint against defendants Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, P.C., Jeffrey B. Simon, and David C. Greenstone, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et seq., and common law claims for conspiracy and fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The defendants contemporaneously filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, however, as a matter of economy, the court first addresses the defendants’ motion to dismiss for personal jurisdiction and venue. The plaintiff was a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Morton Grove, Illinois that manufactured and distributed industrial sealing products. Defendant Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, a ...
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Dissolved Company Failed to Meet Notice Requirements of Statute of Repose Superior Court of Rhode Island, March 13, 2017

Defendant Grover S. Wormer Company, individually and as successor-in-interest to Wright-Austin Company, brought a motion to dismiss the asbestos litigation filed on behalf of Frank D’Amico in the Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence.  Wormer originally brought its motion under Super. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6) and contended that the plaintiff’s claims for liability are barred under Michigan’s Business Corporation Act Chapter 8 (the BCA), which governs the dissolution of corporations and provides a Statute of Repose to bar continued liability.  The plaintiff did not contest the applicability of the BCA, however, the plaintiff contended that Wormer did not provide sufficient discovery for the court to resolve the applicability of the Statute of Repose. The defendant was incorporated in the State of Michigan, with its principal place of business in Michigan ...
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Case Remanded to State Court Following Resolution of Claims that Invoked Federal Officer Statute U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, March 17, 2017

The plaintiffs commenced this action in state court alleging that various products caused plaintiff Ralph Shonkwiler to develop mesothelioma. Defendant CBS Corporation (Westinghouse) removed the matter to federal court based on the federal officer statute since the plaintiffs claimed exposure to their product was a Navy turbine and the claimed exposure took place while plaintiff was serving in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Ingram. In January 2017, the plaintiffs informed the court that all claims against Westinghouse were resolved and Westinghouse was dismissed from the action. The plaintiff subsequently moved to remand the action back to state court. Defendant Warren Pumps opposed the plaintiff’s motion and moved to dismiss. In its papers, Warren argued that it also could rely on the federal officer statute. Warren pointed out that while there ...
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Rhode Island Court Applies Maine Law to Deny Summary Judgment to Insulation Contractor Superior Court of Rhode Island, March 13, 2017

The laintiffs alleged negligence and breach of warranty based upon asbestos exposure sustained by dececdent during his work at various job sites through the Laborer’s Union from 1969-1990. Defendant New England Insulation Company (NEI) filed a motion for summary judgment based upon various theories, which the court denied. During his deposition, the decedent testified that he worked as a laborer for general contractors at job sites in Maine.  From 1973-1976 he worked at International Paper Mill around other trades, such as pipefitters and insulators. His brother and co-worker also testified as to the decedent’s work at the paper mill during this time. Another co-worker testified that NEI was the insulation contractor at this site and installed pipe covering. First, NEI argued that the law of Maine should not apply, because ...
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Summary Judgment Granted to Valve Manufacturer Based on Insufficient Evidence of Exposure Superior Court of Rhode Island, March 13, 2017

The plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence for personal injuries and wrongful death alleging plaintiff’s decedent use of asbestos products with defendant’s valves were foreseeable to the defendant and, under a negligence theory, the defendant failed to warn of the associated hazards. The defendant moved for summary judgment under Maine Law, to which both parties agreed upon, on November 16, 2016, and argued that the plaintiff failed to offer, and have no reasonable expectation of offering any evidence that plaintiff’s decedent was exposed to an asbestos-containing product manufactured by the defendant.  The defendant further argued that, “even if Maine law allowed liability to third-party component products, the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence that any products manufactured or supplied by the defendant even contained asbestos. ...
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Exception to Boiler Manufacturer’s Bare Metal Defense Found in Denial of Summary Judgment U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, March 16, 2017

James Stevens served as a boiler technician aboard the USS Allagash from July 7, 1951 until October 11, 1952. The boilers on the Allagash were manufactured by Foster Wheeler and included asbestos containing materials in their construction. Foster Wheeler additionally provided additional asbestos containing materials to be used in the boilers. Mr. Stevens was diagnosed with mesothelioma and passed away in 2015. The plaintiffs brought suit against various defendants, including Foster Wheeler, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, alleging Mr. Stevens’ disease was caused by their use of asbestos containing products. Foster Wheeler filed a motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge recommended that Foster Wheeler’s motion be denied. Foster Wheeler filed an objection to the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge. The court ...
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$3.5 Million Punitive Damages Upheld Against Brake Manufacturer on Appeal Court of Appeal of California, Fifth Appellate District, March 17, 2017

James Phillips was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March of 2012 and died in February of 2013. In May of 2012, Phillips and his wife, Charity Phillips, filed a complaint seeking damages for personal injuries caused by asbestos in the Superior Court of Fresno County, California. In May 2013, after Phillips’s death, Charity, individually and as the personal representative of his estate, filed a first amended complaint alleging negligence and strict liability. The first amended complaint named more than 25 defendants engaged in the manufacture or supply of products containing asbestos. Defendant Honeywell was sued individually and as the successor-in-interest to The Bendix Corporation, a manufacturer of automotive brakes. Bendix brakes were among the asbestos-containing products to which Phillips was exposed. In May 2014, the jury completed a special verdict form ...
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Plaintiffs Presented Sufficient Evidence to Withstand Motion for Directed Verdict Appellate Court of Illinois, March 14, 2017

The decedent’s estate filed a claim alleging asbestos exposure caused decedent to develop mesothelioma. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Welco Manufacturing Company because no witnesses could specify how often the decedent used Welco’s products. The plaintiffs appealed, and the appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial. The decedent’s cousin, Walter, testified that he and the decedent applied joint compound on close to 50 commercial and residential sites for four months in Illinois in 1965. Walter testified they used, among other brands, “Wel-Cote.” He could not identify how frequently they used Wel-Cote, or any specific job site where this product was used. The trial court found that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden. The appellate court reviewed the frequency, regularity and proximity test defined ...
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Port Commission’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Granted Where Plaintiff’s Work was Predominantly Land Based U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, March 13, 2017

Mr. Genusa developed mesothelioma as a result of his work as a longshoreman, truck loader, and warehouse worker from 1963-1999. Mr. Genusa passed away and a claim was paid by Baton Rouge Marine Contractors (BRMC) and Signal Mutual Indemnity under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act. The plaintiffs instituted this action against 13 defendants that allegedly “designed, tested, evaluated, manufactured, packaged, furnished, stored, handled, transported, installed, supplied and/or sold asbestos containing products to recover the benefits paid to Mr. Genusa’s wife. The last standing defendant, Greater Baton Rouge Port Association (GBRP) moved to dismiss the claim for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court began its analysis with an overview of Rule 12(b)(1), which provides for dismissal when the court lacks “statutory ...
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