Airplane Manufacturer Granted Dismissal in N.Y. Federal Court Action for Lack of Jurisdiction Even Though Registered to do Business and Appointed an Agent for Service of Process

In this federal court case, it was alleged that the decedent, Walter Brown, was exposed to asbestos while serving as an airplane mechanic in the U.S. Air force from 1950-1970. During that time, he worked at various bases in Europe and in the U.S. in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, and Michigan. Prior to his passing, the decedent, who was living in Alabama, sued 14 companies, including Lockheed Martin Corporation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. A motion to dismiss was brought on statute of limitations grounds and the decedent voluntarily withdrew his action. Subsequently, the decedent commenced an action in Connecticut Superior Court in October 2012 against Lockheed, and various other defendants, which alleged the same claims in his previous action. Shortly after commencing the new action, the decedent died and his daughter, Cindy Brown, as the personal representative of his estate, replaced the decedent as the plaintiff. Following jurisdictional discovery regarding Lockheed’s contacts with Connecticut, Lockheed renewed its Rule 12(b)(2) motion and in May 2014 the District Court dismissed the case. In its decision, the court applied Connecticut law, and stated “Lockheed was subject to the Connecticut long-arm statute by virtue of its registration to do business in the state, but that the effective reach of the statute is curbed by federal due process principles. Under those principles, the court ruled, Lockheed’s contacts were not substantial enough to support the court’s exercise of general jurisdiction over it.” Following the dismissal, the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court went into a lengthy discussion on specific and general personal jurisdiction and weighed Lockheed’s connections to Connecticut, including it being registered to do business in that state and having appointed an agent for service of process. In upholding the District Court’s dismissal, the court held: “In the absence of a clear legislative statement and a definitive interpretation by the Connecticut Supreme Court and in light of constitutional concerns, we construe Connecticut’s registration statute and appointment of agent provisions not to require registrant corporations that have appointed agents for service of process to submit to the general jurisdiction of Connecticut courts. The judgment of the District Court is AFFIRMED.”

Read the full decision here.