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Brake Manufacturer’s Motion to Dismiss on Personal Jurisdiction Grounds Denied

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Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, October 6, 2022

In this asbestos action, Plaintiff George Sweikart alleged that his mesothelioma resulted from exposure to asbestos-containing products, including brakes and clutches from defendant Akebono Brake Industry Co., Ltd. (“Akebono”). Akebono, a Japanese company, filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, alleging that no personal jurisdiction exists over it in California.  

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. 

Here, it is undisputed that there is no general jurisdiction over Akebono. However, Akebono asserts that there is no specific jurisdiction over it as Akebono has never purposefully caused or deliberately directed its subsidiaries to engage in contacts with California. In response, plaintiffs argued that Mr. Sweikhart testified to using Akebono parts on brake and clutch jobs in San Diego, CA from 1969-2000. Moreover, plaintiffs provided evidence that Akebono sold Japanese-made brakes to a California company called European Parts Exchange in the 1980s. Akebono’s subsidiary, ABC, also had to register Akebono brake pads and linings with the state of California in order to be sold in the state. Thus, plaintiffs assert that Akebono made efforts to sell its products in California, purposefully availing itself of California’s forum benefits at the time Mr. Sweikart used Akebono parts in California.  

The Court ultimately agreed with plaintiffs, finding that the presence of Akebono’s products in California was not an isolated occurrence, and that Akebono did not simply place their products in the stream of commerce. Rather, Akebono made efforts to sell its products in California. For these reasons, the Court held that it is not unreasonable to subject Akebono to suit in California and denied Akebono’s motion to dismiss.

Read the full decision here