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Product Manufacturer and Supplier’s Motion to Dismiss on Personal Jurisdiction Grounds Denied

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Court: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles

In this asbestos action, plaintiffs James Manns, David Papworth, Carie Edwards, Shauna Papworth, Jami Hoffman, and Robee Green filed this action alleging Debra Manns developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos from Master Industries Worldwide LLC’s products.

In November 2022, plaintiffs dismissed Master Industries Worldwide, LLC and amended their complaint to substitute Master Industries Worldwide LLC as successor-in-interest to Master Industries Inc. On January 11, 2023, defendants Master Industries Worldwide LLC filed a motion to quash service of summons for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court continued the hearing on the motion several times to allow jurisdictional discovery. The parties also filed supplemental briefs.

A non-resident defendant is subject to a state’s general jurisdiction if its contacts “are so continuous and systematic, as to render it essentially at home in the forum state.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014). Moreover, a nonresident defendant is subject to a state’s specific jurisdiction if the defendant has “purposefully availed” themselves to the benefits of the forum state and “the controversy is related to, or ‘arises out of,’ a defendant’s contacts with the forum.” Id. Under California law, the court will have personal jurisdiction over a successor company if “(1) the court would have had personal jurisdiction over the predecessor, and (2) the successor company effectively assumed the subject liabilities of the predecessor.” The court also analyzed the product line exception rule from Ray v. Alad Corp. 

Defendant argues there is no personal jurisdiction over because it was formed in 2011 and did not manufacture or sell products until 2012, many years after Debra Manns’ exposure. Moreover, defendant argued it did not continue the business of Master Industries Inc. In 2011, it purchased certain assets of Master Industries Inc. for valuable consideration. Here, general jurisdiction over defendant was not in dispute. Regarding specific jurisdiction, plaintiffs argue defendant is a successor-in-interest to Master Industries Inc., which manufactured, sold, and distributed Easy Slide talc products in California that exposed Debra Manns to asbestos in California. Plaintiffs submitted evidence that defendant claimed to have been in business for 50 years manufacturing products in California, therefore, purposefully availing itself to the benefits of doing business in California. Plaintiffs also argued that defendant purchased Master Industries Inc. and then continued the Master business and brand using the same employees and facilities in California, and selling the same products to the same customers, including the product that allegedly exposed Debra Manns to asbestos.

The court ultimately agreed with plaintiffs, finding that defendant both availed themselves of the benefits of doing business in California, and plaintiffs’ claims arise from their use of Master Industries Inc.’s product made, sold, and used in California.

Therefore, the motion to quash was denied. 

Read the full decision here.