Gasket Manufacturer’s Motion to Dismiss on Personal Jurisdiction Denied Due to Conclusory Arguments

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Central Division, August 25, 2020

Defendant Federal-Mogul Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, as successor to both the Felt-Products Manufacturing Company and the Vellumoid Division of Federal-Mogul Corporation, filed separate motions to dismiss on behalf of each. The court notes that both motions failed to comply with Local Rule 7.2 as they were not accompanied by a brief. Furthermore, the arguments in the rough two-page motions were completely undeveloped and conclusory, which the court noted was enough to deny the motions. An additional point regarding personal jurisdiction was noted, that is, in order to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists, which is accomplished by pleading sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that the defendant can be subjected to jurisdiction within the state.

The Eighth Circuit has previously ruled that “once jurisdiction has been controverted or denied, the plaintiff has the burden of proving such facts” and that the “prima facie showing must be tested, not by the pleadings alone, but by the affidavits and exhibits presented with the motions and in opposition thereto.” However, the court noted it is clear that this requirement for a plaintiff to prove facts, as opposed to merely making factual allegations, arises when the “defendant raises through affidavits, documents or testimony a meritorious challenge to personal jurisdiction.”

In this instant matter, the plaintiffs have pled sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that Federal-Mogul can be subjected to jurisdiction in Arkansas. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Federal-Mogul manufactured asbestos-containing gaskets; that these products were “sold, distributed, and used in the Eastern District of Arkansas”; that Mr. Kimmons “was exposed to asbestos while using the defendant’s products purchased in the State of Arkansas”; and that most of the exposure was within the state of Arkansas.

While the court denied the defendant’s motions, it reminded the parties that they may still bring an argument against the assertion of personal jurisdiction at the summary judgment or trial stages. In resolving the instant motions, the court did not determine the ultimate merits of the personal jurisdiction argument.