Aircraft Manufacturer Granted Motion to Dismiss Due to Lack of Specific Personal Jurisdiction

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U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, June 28, 2021

Paul Klick III (the plaintiff) was diagnosed with mesothelioma on or about July 17, 2020, after allegedly being exposed to asbestos while serving in the United States Air Force between 1967 and 1971. Among other things, the plaintiff alleged that he breathed the airborne dust created from mechanics under his direct supervision maintaining, removing and installing asbestos-containing friction and insulation products on Boeing aircrafts, B-52G and KC-135A. The plaintiff’s work involving Boeing products occurred when he was stationed in Maine from January 1967 to August 1971 while serving in the United States Air Force. The plaintiff filed this asbestos personal injury action in the Superior Court of New Jersey on October 20, 2020. Boeing removed this action on the basis of federal officer jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) and then filed the instant motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The court noted that in a diversity action a New Jersey federal court “has jurisdiction over parties to the extent provided under New Jersey state law.” Thus,parties who have constitutionally sufficient ‘minimum contacts’ with New Jersey are subject to suit there. A federal district court may exercise two types of personal jurisdiction: general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. General jurisdiction exists when a defendant’s affiliations with the state are so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum state. The ‘paradigm’ forums in which a corporate defendant is ‘at home’ are the corporation’s place of incorporation and its principal place of business. In order for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the defendant must have (1) “purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum”; (2) the litigation “arises out of or relates to at least one” of those contacts; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction “comports with fair play and substantial justice.”

The plaintiffs argued that Boeing’s motion should be denied because the court has specific personal jurisdiction over Boeing, but did not address the defendant’s arguments regarding general jurisdiction, nor did they argue that the court has general personal jurisdiction over Boeing. Nevertheless, upon review of the parties’ submissions, the court found that Boeing’s activities in New Jersey are insufficient to exercise general jurisdiction as New Jersey is neither Boeing’s place of incorporation nor its principal place of business. Further, Boeing’s revenues derived from New Jersey amount to 0.42 percent of the company’s total revenue and that Boeing employs 0.02 percent of its workforce in the state.

While the plaintiff did not argue that any of his work with Boeing aircrafts occurred in New Jersey, he argued that his claims arose out of or related to Boeing’s business activities within New Jersey because Boeing contracted with multiple New Jersey manufacturers of asbestos-containing parts, which were incorporated into the Boeing aircrafts at issue. Specifically, the plaintiff argued Boeing acquired parts from the following New Jersey manufacturing facilities: Bendix Corporation, Johns-Manville Products, and Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc. Boeing pointed to McClung v. 3M Company, an asbestos personal injury case involving similar allegations against Boeing in which this court determined it lacked both general and specific personal jurisdiction over Boeing. The plaintiff in that case similarly claimed that because Boeing’s predecessor purchased asbestos-containing component parts from a New Jersey vendor for an aircraft that the plaintiff worked on, Boeing was subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey. There, the court found that “even if the plaintiff could establish that Boeing’s predecessor purchased component parts on the Boeing aircraft from a vendor in New Jersey and that the plaintiff encountered those parts while maintaining Boeing aircrafts” outside of New Jersey, the plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of specific personal jurisdiction because: (1) the plaintiff “failed to show that Boeing purposefully targeted the forum,” and (2) “even if the plaintiff could establish that Boeing purposefully targeted New Jersey,” the plaintiff “also failed to show that her claims arise out of or are related to Boeing’s purchases in New Jersey.

After a thorough analysis and applying the relevant factors as decided in McClung, the court noted that the plaintiff did not provide any support for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction in the context of this case, nor do they attempt to distinguish this case from McClung. Instead, the plaintiff committed the same errors as the plaintiff in McClung in their but-for argumentation, by conflating the tort liability analysis with the personal jurisdiction analysis.

Thus, the court granted Boeing’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Read the full decision here.