Washington State Personal Jurisdiction Dispute Remanded to Trial Court for Further Findings of Fact

WASHINGTON – The plaintiff sued the defendant Special Electric and others on behalf of the decedent Donald Noll, and alleged that Noll’s fatal mesothelioma was caused in part by his work with asbestos-cement pipe in the 1970s that contained asbestos supplied by Special Electric. Special Electric moved to dismiss the matter for lack of personal jurisdiction, which the trial court granted. However, Washington’s Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of the facts in light of its decision in State v. LG Electronics, 186 Wn. 169 (2016).

Back in trial court, the plaintiff presented a motion to establish specific jurisdiction over Special Electric with new evidence. Special Electric requested a preliminary hearing under Washington’s CR 12(d), at which the plaintiff was required to prove personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Following the preliminary hearing, the trial court again dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, but gave no specific findings of fact. The plaintiff appealed.

The appeals court articulated that in conducting its review, it would not speculate on what test the trial court decided to apply, nor what specific facts informed the trial court’s determinations. In remanding the matter, the court stated they were looking for the trial court’s findings on the following questions:

  1. Did Special Electric control a significant share of the U.S. market for asbestos?
  2. Did Special Electric intend for its asbestos to be incorporated into products sold across the U.S. and Washington?
  3. Was a substantial volume of asbestos-cement pipe containing Special Electric’s asbestos sold in Washington as part of the regular flow of commerce?
  4. Did Special Electric know that its asbestos fiber customers sold their asbestos-cement pipe in Washington?
  5. Should Special Electric have known that its asbestos fiber customers sold their asbestos-cement pipe in Washington?

The court thus remanded the plaintiff’s case to trial court for further findings of fact.

Read the case decision here.