Motion to Dismiss Based Upon Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Denied in Maritime Case Motion to Dismiss Based Upon Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Denied in Maritime Case, May 18, 2018

LOUISIANA —  The plaintiff, Robert Schindler, filed suit against Dravo Basic Materials Company, Inc. (Dravo), to recover for injuries caused by his development of mesothelioma from allegedly being exposed to asbestos while working for three months in 1973 on a ship owned by Dravo. The ship was operated in Lake Pontchartrain during the relevant time period. The plaintiff filed his complaint under maritime law on November 21, 2017. Dravo responded by filing a motion to dismiss based upon a lack of personal jurisdiction.

Dravo argued that the court possessed neither general or specific personal jurisdiction over it. With regard to the former, Dravo argued that it is not a Louisiana corporation and does not maintain a principal place of business in the state. As for specific jurisdiction, Dravo argued that it has not had any contacts with the state for nearly 25 years, and therefore the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable.

The plaintiff did not respond to the general jurisdiction argument, so the court focused on the specific jurisdiction argument. The court denied Dravo’s contention that temporal limitations should be placed on its assessment of Dravo’s minimum contacts with Louisiana in the context of specific jurisdiction. Finding that the plaintiff performed work on Lake Pontchartrain on the ship, the court concluded that Dravo purposely availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities within the state of Louisiana.

The burden then shifted to Dravo to demonstrate the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Dravo essentially argued that because it is an inactive company which solely exists in Pennsylvania, and the relevant documents are located there, that it would be unreasonable for the court to exercise jurisdiction over it. The court disagreed, finding that local counsel had been retained and could defend the case, that the location of documents did not weigh in favor of transferring the litigation to another jurisdiction, and that Louisiana had a greater interest in adjudicating the matter than Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the court denied Dravo’s motion to dismiss based upon a lack of personal jurisdiction.

Read the full decision here. 

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