Court Finds Plaintiff’s Affidavit Establishes Specific Jurisdiction

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, September 9, 2021

Plaintiff Dennis A. Rockwell filed an asbestos action alleging he was exposed to asbestos from his work on two U.S. Navy ships and during his employment at Camp Pendleton, located in California.He alleged that such asbestos exposure ultimately resulted in his February 2021 diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Defendant Akron Brass Company moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction citing the plaintiff’s failure to provide facts connecting Akron Bass to California. While the plaintiff conceded that there was no general jurisdiction over Akron Brass, the plaintiff submitted a declaration stating that he “recalls working with Akron Brass strainers and valves, including associated asbestos-containing gaskets and packing, while in the United States Navy and at Camp Pendleton.” In response, Akron Brass alleged that the declaration was a “sham affidavit” that contradicted the plaintiff’s prior deposition testimony as vague, speculative, conclusory, and insufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction.

Under Rule 12(b)(2), a court must dismiss an action where it does not have personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). While the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that the court has personal jurisdiction, “the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.” Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1127 (9th Cir. 2010).

The Ninth Circuit uses a three-part test to analyze specific personal jurisdiction: (1) the non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant’s forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004).

The court found that the plaintiff alleged sufficient specific facts to establish specific jurisdiction over Akron Brass because the plaintiff provided a declaration where he stated that he recalled working with Akron Brass strainers and valves at Camp Pendleton, including associated asbestos-containing gaskets and packing.

Accordingly, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Read the full decision here.