Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District
The plaintiffs, John and Joanne Fleemin, filed the instant products liability lawsuit against numerous defendants, including Lornamead, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in New York. The plaintiffs alleged that Joanne developed mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos-containing cosmetic talcum powder products between 1978 and 2015. They attributed Yardley Lavender talcum powder to Lornamead. The plaintiffs further asserted that the defendants were subject to jurisdiction in Florida based on having “maintained sufficient contact with the State of Florida and/or transacted substantial revenue producing business in the State of Florida.”
Lornamead filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. In support of its motion, Lornamead attached the affidavit of its senior vice president of finance, who affirmed that Lornamead had no operations or facilities in Florida, no officers or directors based in Florida, did not own or lease real property in Florida, and never manufactured Yardley talcum powder. The affidavit further declared that, following Lornamead’s acquisition of Yardley brand trademarks, it sold six bottles of Yardley talcum powder to Walgreens in the United States between 2005 and 2012. The plaintiffs relied on Joanne’s deposition testimony, namely that she purchased Yardley powder from Winn-Dixie and possibly from Eckerds and Walgreens “during the years Lornamead admits to having liability for Yardley powder.” Following a non-evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that the affidavit “precisely admits to distributing to Walgreens during an operative period where this plaintiff alleges exposure.”
In reversing the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal found that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy their burden after Lornamead established a lack of minimum contacts through the affidavit. The court reasoned that Joanne’s “vague deposition testimony that she might have purchased some of the powder at Walgreens is insufficient to meet her burden to establish personal jurisdiction. Moreover, because of the limited number of sales, if any in Florida, minimum contacts are not established.” The court further clarified, “Evidence that a defendant may have predicted its goods would reach the forum state does not suffice to demonstrate personal jurisdiction, nor is the fact that a defendant merely sold products that ended up in a state sufficient.” Because the plaintiffs failed to produce evidence that Lornamead targeted Florida, the court reversed the denial of Lornamead’s motion to dismiss and directed the trial court to dismiss Lornamead from the case on remand.
Read the full decision here.