Close up of Male lawyer or judge hand's striking the gavel on sounding block, working with Law books, report the case on table in modern office, Law and justice concept

Product Manufacturer and Supplier’s Motion to Dismiss Granted for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport, February 18, 2022

In this asbestos action, defendant Ametek, Inc. moved to dismiss the complaint by plaintiffs Maria and Carmelo Patti. The plaintiffs alleged that Mrs. Patti was exposed to asbestos from products manufactured and supplied by Ametek to her employer, Grieco Brothers, which caused her to develop mesothelioma.

The court undertook a two-part inquiry as is required under Connecticut law when a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Specifically, “[t]he trial court must first decide whether the applicable state [long arm] statute authorizes the assertion of jurisdiction over the [defendant]. If the statutory requirements [are] met, its second obligation [is] then to decide whether the exercise of jurisdiction over the [defendant] would violate constitutional principles of due process.” With regard to the first prong, the court instructed that the applicable long arm statute is General Statutes § 33-929.

Ametek argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over it under § 33-929 (e) as the plaintiffs have not alleged the following: (1) that Ametek “transacted business in Connecticut without authorization,” (2) that Maria Patti’s injuries stemmed from Ametek’s transaction of business in Connecticut without authorization, (3) where Grieco Brothers is located, and (4) where Mrs. Patti worked for Grieco Brothers. The plaintiffs also argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over it under § 33-929 (f) as the plaintiffs do not reside in Connecticut, nor do they have a usual place of business in the state. In opposition, the plaintiffs contended that the court does not have jurisdiction over Ametek under § 33-929 (a) since Ametek registered with the Connecticut Secretary of State in order to preform business in the state. While the court first acknowledged that it did not have jurisdiction over Ametek under either § 33-929 (e) or (f), the court subsequently held that jurisdiction over Ametek was proper under § 33-929 (a) because Ametek “submitted to personal jurisdiction in Connecticut when it registered to transact business in Connecticut and appointed an authorized agent for service of process.”

However, the court ultimately found that it would not exercise general nor specific jurisdiction over Ametek under due process principles. Specific jurisdiction was not in dispute in this matter as the plaintiffs failed to allege that Ametek conducted business in Connecticut, a location where Mrs. Patti worked in Connecticut, or that Mrs. Patti was exposed to asbestos-containing products in Connecticut. With regard to general jurisdiction, Ametek argued that they are neither incorporated, nor have their principal place of business in Connecticut. Further, the plaintiffs failed to allege that Ametek’s contacts with the state rendered it essentially at home in Connecticut. In opposition, the plaintiffs contended that Ametek had systematic contacts with Connecticut, including that Ametek “owns or leases property in Connecticut, makes products in Connecticut, sells products to Connecticut companies, employs a workforce in Connecticut, is subject to Connecticut workers’ compensation claims, holds bank accounts in Connecticut, and files tax returns in Connecticut.” The plaintiffs also alleged that Ametek has three businesses it operates in Connecticut. In reply, Ametek argued that the businesses cited by the plaintiffs are separate and distinct subsidiaries and sub-operations, which would not amount to an exceptional circumstance where Ametek is considered at home in Connecticut.

After setting forth its analysis of relevant state and federal due process decisions, the court stated that there were no facts alleged which would lead the court to believe that there were substantial and systematic contacts with Connecticut that would render Ametek at home in the state. Further, the court held that “[t]he defendant’s subsidiaries and affiliates in Connecticut cannot impute their contacts with Connecticut to the defendant to establish general jurisdiction” under Daimler AG v. Bauman. The court further engaged in this analysis, noting that “even if the subsidiaries and affiliates could confer jurisdiction to the defendant, their contacts with Connecticut, along with the defendant’s other independent contacts with Connecticut, do not establish an exceptional case where the defendant is considered at home in Connecticut.” The court analogized this case to Brown v. Lockheed Martin Corp., where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit set forth that leasing four facilities in the forum state “was not enough substantial contacts to confer general jurisdiction.” Here, the court found that Ametek’s operations in Connecticut were minimal and did not show how these activities were “much more substantial than its contacts with other states as to create an exceptional circumstance where the defendant is at home in Connecticut.” As such, if the court found that defendant’s operations in Connecticut were an exceptional case that subjected it to general jurisdiction in Connecticut, “the defendant could be subject to general jurisdiction in every state it has business relations with which Daimler AG v. Bauman explicitly rejects.” Thus, the court granted the motion to dismiss.

Read the full decision here.