Upon Reconsideration, Finding of Jurisdiction Reversed Due to Missouri Supreme Court Ruling in State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, April 21, 2017
The plaintiffs were the special representative of the decedent, Berj Hovsepian, a civilian employee of the Navy from 1958-64 who died of mesothelioma. Originally filed in the City of St. Louis, Missouri, it was removed to federal court where defendant CBS Corporation filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. After the motion was denied, CBS moved to reconsider due to a change in controlling law. The court reconsidered and reversed its ruling, holding no personal jurisdiction existed over CBS.
Motions to reconsider were not “vehicle(s) to identify facts or legal arguments that could have been, but were not, raised at the time the relevant motion was pending.” However, here CBS urged the court to reconsider due to a change in controlling law. After the court issued its order, the Missouri Supreme Court held in State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan that compliance with Missouri’s foreign corporation registration statute did not constitute consent to general jurisdiction. This court’s prior order held the converse.
At the time of the court’s prior decision, controlling precedent held that compliance with a foreign business registration statute indicated consent to general personal jurisdiction. The Dolan court held that: “The plain language of Missouri’s registration statutes does not mention consent to personal jurisdiction for unrelated claims, nor does it purport to provide an independent basis for jurisdiction over foreign corporations that register in Missouri…”. The court was bound by this holding and upon reconsideration, found that Missouri’s business registration statute did not provide a basis for jurisdiction over CBS. Further, CBS was not “at home” in Missouri; only in the most unusual of cases may a foreign corporation be considered “at home” where it has neither corporate headquarters nor is incorporated. Finally, since none of the acts alleged in the plaintiffs’ amended complaint occurred in Missouri, specific jurisdiction likewise did not exist.