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Court Grants Chemical Manufacturer’s Motion to Dismiss on Personal Jurisdiction Grounds

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United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, April 5, 2022

In this asbestos action, plaintiff John R. Andres passed away in April 2020, allegedly as a result of his diagnosis with mesothelioma. His son subsequently filed suit in Florida against 51 defendants, alleging that his father came into contact with numerous asbestos-containing products over the course of his life. One of the defendants, Huntsman Corporation, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that theywere not subject topersonal jurisdiction in Florida. While the plaintiff’s motion made no specific allegations concerning Huntsman’s business or conduct in Florida, the plaintiff pled jurisdictional allegations common to all defendants. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that all defendantswere either Florida residents or had conducted business in Florida.

In support of its motion, Huntsman filed a declaration by its assistant treasurer, Joe Hamor, stating that Huntsman is merely a holding company incorporated in Delaware with a principal place of business in Texas. In response, the plaintiffs argued that Huntsman was subject to jurisdiction in Florida because it conducted business in Florida and targeted the sale of its products in Florida. The plaintiffs also argued that Huntsman owned or operated a physical facility in Pensacola, Florida, and that Huntsman owned the trademark to two products that are sold in Florida and potentially contributed to Mr. Andres’ alleged asbestos exposure.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff seeking personal jurisdiction over a nonresident bears the initial burden of alleging sufficient facts in the complaint to establish a prima facie case of jurisdiction. Here, the court found that the plaintiffs had not alleged a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over Huntsman. The court noted that the plaintiffs lumped Huntsman together with 50 other defendants when pleading jurisdictional allegations with mere conclusory reasons in support. Additionally, the court found that even if the plaintiffs met their initial burden, dismissal remained appropriate because Huntsman presented sufficient evidence to rebut the plaintiffs’ jurisdictional allegations. Moreover, the plaintiffs also failed to prove jurisdiction by “affidavits, testimony, or documents” in response to Huntsman’s rebut. As such, the court granted Huntsman’s motion to dismiss.

Read the full decision here