United States District Court, S.D. New York, March 3, 2020
NEW YORK – Eugene Paroni, the plaintiff’s spouse, was diagnosed with and died of mesothelioma. The plaintiff alleges that the decedent’s mesothelioma was a result of his asbestos exposure from his work with a turbine manufactured by Ruston Gas Turbines, Ltd. The plaintiff brought suit against Alstom SA, successor-in-interest to Ruston. The plaintiff originally filed suit in California where he resided. Shortly thereafter, service of the summons on Alstom was quashed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The California court noted there was no general jurisdiction because Alstom was not essentially at home in California. The court also found that the plaintiff did not submit any evidence that any of the intermediaries of Alstom ton had purposefully availed themselves of the laws of California at the time the cause of action arose or any evidence that their claims arose out of or related to Alstom’s contacts with California. The plaintiff also requested jurisdictional discovery but the court denied that request, as he did not make this request in his opposition memorandum of law or any time before the hearing.
The plaintiff then brought the present suit in New York alleging negligence, gross negligence, strict products liability, wrongful death, and loss of consortium. The plaintiff noted that although Alstom is incorporated in France and has its principal place of business there, it also has a number of connections to the United States and New York. Alstom also has a New York-based subsidiary and three New York real estate holdings, in addition to a management team member and two directors who reside in New York.
Alstom filed a motion dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and further sought a denial of the plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery. The plaintiff argued that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant by way of general jurisdiction. The plaintiff relied on Alstom’s website’s statement that its “U.S. Headquarters” are in New York to argue that it is subject to general jurisdiction here. Alstom argued that as a French corporation with a principal place of business in France, none of its contacts with New York render it essentially at home for purposes of general jurisdiction. The plaintiff then sought jurisdictional discovery to probe Alstom’s business activities in New York and its relationship with the subsidiary at issue.
The court noted that according to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) (2), “the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. If a plaintiff has identified a genuine issue of jurisdictional fact, jurisdictional discovery is appropriate even in the absence of a prima facie showing as to the existence of jurisdiction.” The court concluded that jurisdictional discovery is required to enable the court reliably to determine whether there is personal jurisdiction over the defendant. First, the plaintiff identified a genuine issue of jurisdictional fact, that is, whether Alstom conducts business and has a domestic headquarters in New York, or whether that headquarters (and its corresponding business in New York) is that of an Alstom subsidiary without connection to this litigation. Moreover, the court ordered that jurisdictional discovery is appropriate to establish the connection between Alstom and Ruston as it relates to asbestos liabilities. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, without prejudice to its right to renew that motion upon the close of jurisdictional discovery
Read the case decision here.