Plaintiff’s General Statements of Defendants’ Alleged Successor Liability Insufficient to Withstand 12(b)(6) Motion U.S. District Court, D. Delaware, July 19, 2019

DELAWARE – The plaintiff initially filed her asbestos-related wrongful death lawsuit in New Jersey claiming the decedent Robert Fish suffered exposure to asbestos during his service as a civilian at New York Shipbuilding and Drydock in Camden, NJ. The court noted the plaintiff specifically alleged the decedent’s exposure from Arnot, a joiner contractor who cut paneling around the decedent at New York Shipbuilding and Drydock. Shortly after the plaintiff filed the complaint, the defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, pursuant to the federal officer removal statute. The New Jersey District Court issued an order to show cause on December 12, 2017, which resulted in a transfer of venue to Delaware. Upon transfer, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for deficiencies within the complaint, which the plaintiff was permitted leave to amend.

Upon receipt of the amended complaint, the defendants filed their 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. The defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to adequately plead claims for successor liability relating to Arnot. While the court addressed the four exceptions to the general rule of nonliability, which states that a purchasing company is generally not liable for the debts of the selling company, it did not find that the plaintiff’s amended complaint alleged any facts that fell within the exceptions.

The plaintiff’s complaint failed to acknowledge and/or explain how the defendants were successors to the alleged liability of the unidentified Arnot joiner contractor entity. Specifically, “there were no facts at all from which the court could infer that any of the named defendants assumed the liabilities of the original joiner contractor. There are no facts alleged to show any connection between any of the defendants and the joiner contractor, through public records, the plaintiff’s own investigation, or otherwise.”

The court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice and without leave to amend.

Read the case decision here.

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