United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
IN THE MATTER OF AMERICAN RIVER TRANSPORTATION, CO., LLC, AS THE OWNER AND OPERATOR OF THE M/V LOUISIANA LADY, PRAYING FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
ORDER AND REASONS
ANN VIAL LEMMON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
IS HEREBY ORDERED that third-party defendant LG Chem
America, Inc.'s ("LGCAI's") Motion
to Dismiss the Third-Party Complaint and First
Supplemental and Amending Third-Party Complaint (Rec. Doc.
67) is hereby DENIED as premature.
September 3, 2017, the M/V LOUISIANA LADY, an inland tug
owned and operated by American River Transportation Company
("ARTCO"), caught fire when it was doing fleet work
on the Mississippi River. The fire broke out in the deck
locker on the vessel's main deck. Two crew members,
Spencer Graves and Ronald D. Neal, who were in their crew
quarters on the main deck, suffered smoke inhalation and loss
of consciousness. Graves, who was a Jones Act seaman aboard
the vessel, died as a result of the accident. Neal, who was
also a Jones Act seaman aboard the vessel, sustained injuries
as a result of the accident.
March 1, 2018, ARTCO filed the instant petition for
limitation of liability pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30501,
et seq. and within the meaning of Rules 9(h) and F
of the Supplemental Rules of Admiralty or Maritime Claims and
Asset Forfeiture Actions seeking exoneration from or
limitation of liability for the September 3, 2017, accident.
Philip and Rebecca Whaley Graves, Spencer Graves'
parents, filed a claim in their individual capacities and as
representatives of Spencer Graves' estate. Neal also
filed a claim.
September 3, 2018, the claimants filed third-party claims
against, inter alia, LGCAI.The claims against LGCAI were
brought pursuant to the Louisiana Products Liability Act, La.
R.S. 9:2800.51 et seq., and the general maritime
law. In their third-party complaint, third-party plaintiffs
(hereinafter, "plaintiffs") allege that an
electronic cigarette with a lithium battery manufactured by
LGCAI exploded on a shelf in the deck locker, ignited, caught
fire, and was propelled around the room, causing the fire
that resulted in Graves' death and Ronald Neal's
motion, LGCAI seeks dismissal of the claims against it,
arguing that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over it.
party who seeks to invoke the jurisdiction of the district
court bears the burden of establishing contacts by the
nonresident defendant sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction
of the court.' ” Felch v. Transportes Lar-Mex
SA DE CV, 92 F.3d 320, 326 (5th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Bullion v. Gillespie, 895 F.2d 213, 217 (5th
Cir.1990)). "Pertaining to this burden, it is well
established that where the district court rules on a motion
to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction without conducting an
evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff may bear his burden by
presenting a prima facie case of jurisdiction."
Id. (citing Wilson v. Belin, 20 F.3d 644,
648 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 930 (1994)).
At the same time, “deposition testimony or evidence
adduced at a hearing under Fed. R. Civ.P. 12 or at trial
might mandate a different conclusion.” Id.
(quoting Bullion, 895 F.2d at 217).
“Eventually, of course, the plaintiff must establish
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, either at a
pretrial evidentiary hearing or at a trial.”
Id. (quoting Travelers Indem. Co. v. Calvert
Fire Ins. Co., 798 F.2d 826 (5th Cir.1986)).
connection with the present motion, LGCAI has acknowledged
that it does do business in Louisiana, but has supported its
motion with the declaration of its compliance manager,
attesting to certain facts regarding its business and
contacts in Louisiana. Plaintiffs contend that discovery is
required to traverse the declaration, including the possible
deposition of the declarant, before it can adequately respond
to the motion. Where the factual bases for jurisdiction are
disputed, the court may receive interrogatories, depositions,
or “any combination of the recognized methods of
discovery” to help it resolve the jurisdictional issue.
Walk Haydel & Assocs., Inc. v. Coastal Power Prod.
Co., 517 F.3d 235, 241 (5th Cir. 2008)(citations
omitted). "The court has discretion as to the type and
amount of discovery to allow." Id. In this
case, the court in its discretion finds that plaintiffs
should be allowed to conduct limited discovery, directed
solely to the issues and facts surrounding personal
jurisdiction. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED
that defendant LGCAI's Motion to Dismiss
the Third-Party Complaint and First Supplemental and Amending
Third-Party Complaint (Rec. Doc. 67) is hereby
DENIED as premature.
 Originally, plaintiffs named LG
Electronics USA, Inc. as a defendant, but by amendment filed
on December 10, 2018, substituted defendant LG Chem ...