Car Manufacturer Obtains Dismissal Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, August 22, 2017

Plaintiffs Harold and Judy Haynes filed suit in Delaware Superior Court on June 3, 2016 alleging that Harold Haynes’ lung cancer diagnosis was caused by asbestos exposure. The plaintiffs specifically alleged that Harold Haynes was exposed to asbestos-containing products as a career auto mechanic for Volkswagen dealerships in Washington and Oregon between 1964 and 1980. On July 15, 2016, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. Defendant Volkswagen filed a motion to dismiss based on personal jurisdiction on February 17, 2017.

In reviewing defendant’s motion, the court looked to the Daimler opinion and emphasized that the “paradigm all-purpose forums for general jurisdiction are a corporation’s place of incorporation and principal place of business.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 749 (2014). Here, the Supreme Court did not hold that a corporation may be subject to general jurisdiction only in one of these locations, but rejected the notion that “continuous and systematic” contacts alone could confer general jurisdiction, clarifying that the role of general jurisdiction is to “afford plaintiffs recourse to at least one clear and certain forum in which a corporate defendant may be sued on any and all claims.” Id.

In the case at bar, the plaintiffs have resided in Oregon since 1992. Volkswagen is incorporated in New Jersey and has its principal place of business in Virginia.

In light of these facts, the court agreed with Volkswagen and granted the motion to dismiss based on personal jurisdiction. The court found that specific personal jurisdiction over Volkswagen does not exist in the present case. As stated above, the allegations are that Harold Haynes was exposed to asbestos-containing products outside of Delaware, during his time as an auto mechanic for Volkswagen dealerships in Washington and Oregon. Additionally, the plaintiffs did not allege any wrongful conduct by Volkswagen occurred in Delaware. Further, the plaintiffs are residents of Oregon, not Delaware. Therefore, there is no connection between the alleged injurious conduct, the defendant, and the State of Delaware. The court also noted that general jurisdiction over Volkswagen did not exist. Here, Volkswagen is incorporated in New Jersey, and has its principal place of business in Virginia. Therefore, Volkswagen is not “at home” in Delaware. Similar to the Daimler opinion, this court also rejected the notion that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction in every state in which it “engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business.”

Accordingly, the court granted Volkswagen’s motion to dismiss based on personal jurisdiction.

Read the full decision here.


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