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Lopez v. McDermott, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 21, 2019

FEDERICO LOPEZ, ET AL.
v.
MCDERMOTT, INC., ET AL. APPLIES TO 17-8977 ONLY

         SECTION "L" (5)

          ORDER & REASONS

          Eldon E. Fallon U.S. District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant ConocoPhillips Company (“Conoco”). R. Doc. 223. Plaintiffs Maricela Lopez and Federico Lopez III oppose the motion.[1]R. Doc. 242. Conoco has filed a reply. R. Doc. 264. The Court now rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Federico Lopez' alleged exposure to asbestos while serving as a pipefitter and welder at facilities owned and/or operated by Defendants.[2] R. Doc. 1-2 at 2. Mr. Lopez contends he contracted malignant mesothelioma as a result of his exposure and seeks to recover damages for his injuries. Id. at 4. Mr. Lopez passed away on November 9, 2017. R. Doc. 61 at 1. His surviving spouse, Maricela Lopez, and surviving child, Federico Lopez III, now maintain the suit on Mr. Lopez' behalf and assert an additional claim for wrongful death. R. Doc. 61 at 1.

         In their second amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege Mr. Lopez was exposed to asbestos between 1971 and 1973 while working as a gasket cutter for Defendant Lamons Gasket Company and again between 1973 and 1986 while working for Kellogg Brown & Root (“KBR”) as a welder/pipefitter. Id. at 2. On March 18, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Fourth Amended Petition for Damages naming ConocoPhillips Company (“Conoco”) as a Defendant for the first time. R. Doc. 196. In this amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege Mr. Lopez was “was exposed to asbestos during his work for KBR at premises/sites owned and/or operated by . . . CONOCOPHILLIPS, as successor in interest to CONOCO, INC., CHEVRON CORPORATION, EPL OIL and GAS INC., and TEXACO, INC.” Id. at ¶ 8(a). They contend his job responsibilities at the Conoco site required him to “us[e] or handl[e] asbestos or asbestos-containing products and/or equipment requiring or calling for the use of asbestos or asbestos-containing products.” Id.

         Based on this factual background, Plaintiffs bring strict liability and negligence claims against Defendants for their role in Mr. Lopez' exposure to asbestos and seek damages for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of quality of life, and wrongful death. Id. at 16.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         In the present motion, Defendant Conoco seeks three forms of relief: (1) dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, or in the alternative, (2) dismissal of Plaintiffs' fraud claims, and (3) a more definite statement. R. Doc. 223-1. The Court first addresses Conoco's contention that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         Conoco first challenges whether this Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). R. Doc. 223. When nonresident defendants like Conoco seek dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction. See Johnston v. Multidata Sys. Int'l Corp., 523 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir. 2008). If the Court rules on the pleadings without first holding an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiffs are required only to make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. Id. In determining whether the plaintiffs have met its burden, the Court may consider affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, or any other appropriate method of discovery. Wilson v. Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 648 (5th Cir. 1994). Under this analysis, the court “must accept as true [the plaintiffs'] uncontroverted allegations, and resolve in [their] favor all conflicts between the [jurisdictional] facts contained in the parties' affidavits and other documentation.” Pervasive Software, Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 219-20 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Freudensprung v. Offshore Tech. Servs., Inc., 379 F.3d 327, 343 (5th Cir. 2004) (alterations in original) (quotation omitted)).

         A federal district court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if “(1) the forum state's long-arm statute confers personal jurisdiction over that defendant; and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d 753, 759 (5th Cir. 2009). Because Louisiana's long-arm statute extends as far as constitutional due process allows, the Court proceeds directly to the second step of the inquiry. See La. R.S. 13:3201 (“[A] court of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident on any basis consistent with the constitution of this state and of the Constitution of the United States.”); see also Hunter v. Meyers, 96-1075, p. 3 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/27/97), 691 So.2d 318, 320.

         The exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with the guarantees of federal due process when the nonresident defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state and the exercise of jurisdiction “does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemp't Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457 (1940)). “There are two types of ‘minimum contacts': those that give rise to specific personal jurisdiction and those that give rise to general personal jurisdiction.” Lewis v. Fresne, 252 F.3d 352, 358 (5th Cir. 2001). “The ‘minimum contacts' inquiry is fact intensive and no one element is decisive; rather[, ] the touchstone is whether the defendant's conduct shows that it ‘reasonably anticipates being haled into court.'” McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759. Because in this case it is undisputed that the Court lacks general jurisdiction over Conoco, see R. Doc. 223 at 9; R. Doc. 264 at 1, the relevant inquiry is whether the Court can exercise specific jurisdiction over Conoco.

         Specific jurisdiction lies when the alleged injuries arise from or are directly related to the nonresident defendant's contacts with the forum state. Gundle Lining Const. Corp. v. Adams Cty. Asphalt, Inc., 85 F.3d 201, 205 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408 (1984) and Quick Techs., Inc. v. Sage Grp. PLC, 313 F.3d 338, 344 (5th Cir. 2002). To determine whether specific jurisdiction exists, a court must “examine the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation to determine whether maintaining the suit offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Gundle Lining, 85 F.3d at 205. Contrary to Conoco's assertion that these contacts must be “systemic, ” even a single contact can support specific jurisdiction if the defendant ...


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