Brake and Talc Supplier Successfully Move to Dismiss on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, July 31, 2017

Following up on prior ACT posts as to the Hodjera suit out of the Western District of Washington, the court granted motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Honeywell International  and Imerys Talc America Inc. under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The court reiterated that due process requires a district court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant in order to adjudicate a claim against it. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 753 (2014).  Further, the plaintiffs have the burden of demonstrating that the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant.  Absent an evidentiary hearing, plaintiffs need only make, through the submission of pleadings and affidavits a prima facie showing of facts supporting personal jurisdiction to avoid dismissal.  The court can establish personal jurisdiction over a particular defendant through either general or specific jurisdiction.   It was clear that the court lacked general jurisdiction over either defendant as neither Honeywell nor Imerys Talc were incorporated in Washington or had their principal place of business in Washington.

In establishing specific jurisdiction, a defendant may also be sued in a forum where it has minimal contacts, provided those contacts are purposefully directed at the forum, the claim arises out of those contacts, and the exercise of jurisdiction over that party is reasonable. [Citation Omitted].  The court addressed the facts of each defendant’s motion as to specific jurisdiction as follows:

Honeywell International

The plaintiffs opposed Honeywell’s motion alleging that Bendix Corporation, Honeywell’s predecessor-in-interest, purposefully availed itself of this Washington forum by manufacturing friction materials for use in brakes, that these materials contained asbestos, and that Hodjera worked with these friction materials.  Plaintiffs further allege that Honeywell is licensed to do business in Washington State, and that it has offices throughout the state.  However, the court found that the plaintiffs still failed to satisfy the second prong of the specific jurisdiction test: the requirement that their claim arise out of the defendant’s purposeful contacts with the forum state. The plaintiff listed in the complaint that the asbestos exposure occurred in Toronto, Ontario.  The plaintiffs relied upon the argument that “the products defendant sold in Washington include the same kind of products with which plaintiff worked, causing his exposure to asbestos.  This was not enough.  There was no allegation that Hodjera’s exposure would not have occurred “but for” Honeywell’s contacts with Washington.  Hodjera’s history of working with “similar” products in Toronto fails to establish specific jurisdiction over Honeywell in Washington. Accordingly, Honeywell’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

Imerys Talc

The plaintiffs similarly opposed Imerys Talc’s motion alleging that Imerys Talc predecessor-in-interest, purposefully availed itself of this Washington forum by mining and processing talc, which was distributed by former defendant Whittaker, Clark & Daniels to defendant Johnson & Johnson for use in its “Shower-to-Shower” cosmetic talc product, which in turn was “intended for widespread distribution throughout North America.  Again, the plaintiffs argue that Imerys Talc was licensed to do business in Washington State.  Similar to Honeywell’s motion, the court found the plaintiffs failed to satisfy the second prong of the specific jurisdiction test: the requirement that their claim arise out of the defendant’s purposeful contacts with the forum state.  Accordingly, and for the same analysis provided in the Honeywell motion, the court granted Imerys Talc’s motion for summary judgment based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

Read the full decision here.


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