Court Finds Jurisdictional Discovery Relevant to Specific Jurisdiction Inquiry U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, March 23, 2018

LOUISIANA — In this case, the plaintiff filed suit in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, alleging the Decedent William Leech was diagnosed with mesothelioma on January 11, 2016 and passed away on January 14, 2016. The plaintiff further alleges the decedent was a construction engineer who worked with and was exposed to asbestos at numerous job sites in Louisiana, California, Arizona, Virginia, and other states from approximately 1965 through 1992, including the Morton Salty facility in Weeks Island, Louisiana. The plaintiff filed suit on January 10, 2017, bringing wrongful death and survival claims against a number of defendants. The case was removed to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana on January 19, 2017. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, and, in the alternative, for a more definite statement pursuant to FRCP 12(e). The plaintiff opposed timely and defendant submitted a reply.

The defendant argued the plaintiff had failed to establish that both general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction existed, as the plaintiff has not alleged any facts regarding the defendant’s contacts with Louisiana.

In the opposition, the plaintiff concedes there is no claim for general jurisdiction over defendant but that specific jurisdiction does in fact exist. Here, the plaintiff argues the defendant directed activities at this Morton Salt facility in Weeks Island, Louisiana for many years, the defendant’s motion was premature, and the plaintiff should have the opportunity to conduct jurisdictional discovery to determine relevant facts, including whether liability existed as to certain entities of the defendant.

The court, in determining a personal jurisdiction motion, articulated that the Fifth Circuit follows a three-step inquiry: (1) whether the defendant purposely directed its activities toward the forum state or purposely availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities there; (2) the defendant’s forum-related contacts; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction is fair and reasonable. [Citation Omitted]. The Fifth Circuit has further explained that on matters of personal jurisdiction, jurisdictional discovery need not be permitted unless the motion to dismiss raises issues of fact.

In its determination, this court, the Easter District of Louisiana, held that if the defendant did in fact maintain control over the specific facility at issue, then there would likely be specific jurisdiction. Therefore, the court found that this jurisdictional discovery may add significant facts necessary to resolve the jurisdictional inquiry as outlined by the Fifth Circuit. Accordingly, the defendant’s motion was denied without prejudice, and the plaintiff was granted 30 days to conduct jurisdictional discovery.

Read the full decision here.


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