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Roussell v. PBF Consultants, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 24, 2019

JEPRECE ROUSSELL
v.
PBF CONSULTANTS, LLC, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES, JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction filed by Defendant Clean Harbors, Inc. (Doc. 17). Plaintiff Jeprece Roussell opposes the motion. (Doc. 22). Oral argument is not necessary. After careful consideration of the parties' arguments, the facts alleged, and the applicable law, and for the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 17) is granted.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 31, 2018, Kierston Roussell sustained injuries as a result of falling silica while cleaning a sand tank at an oil refinery in Chalmette, Louisiana. (Doc. 1-1 at 5-6). The accident caused Mr. Roussell's respirator to fall off, leaving him buried under four to five feet of silica, unable to breathe. (Id. at 6). Mr. Roussell was rescued after a considerable amount of time and taken to a hospital, where he was put on a ventilator. (Id.). About two weeks later, Mr. Roussell was declared brain dead. (Id.). He was taken off of life support and passed away shortly thereafter. (Id.)

         On behalf of and as tutrix for Mr. Roussell's minor child, Jeprece Roussell brought a survival action for the injuries sustained by the decedent as well as a wrongful death action for the child's own damages. (Doc. 1-1 at 1). Among the defendants named are Clean Harbors, Inc. (“Clean Harbors”) and Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. (“CH Environmental Services”) (collectively, the “Clean Harbors Defendants”). (Id. at 3). The plaintiff alleges that Mr. Roussell was injured while performing work for the Clean Harbors Defendants in the course of his employment. (Id. at 5-6).

         Clean Harbors argues that it is not subject to in personam jurisdiction in Louisiana. (Doc. 17-1 at 2). In support of this motion, Clean Harbors has provided an affidavit by Bradley A. Carl, Esq., Vice President and Assistant General Counsel of CH Environmental Services. (Doc. 17-1 & Doc. 17-2). The affidavit states that Clean Harbors is a Massachusetts corporation with its principal place of business in Massachusetts. (Doc. 17-2 at 2). It maintains, as Clean Harbors argues in briefing, that Clean Harbors is a holding company with no employees and does not conduct business within Louisiana. (Id.). CH Environmental Services is a subsidiary of Clean Harbors. (Id.).

         In response to Clean Harbors' assertion that it has no contacts to Louisiana subjecting it to personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff generally argues that the Clean Harbors Defendants contracted with a Louisiana company to “render waste management services at the Chalmette refinery” and arranged for Mr. Roussell to perform the work which led to his injury. (Doc. 22 at 1). The plaintiff further asserts that the Clean Harbors Defendants failed to properly train and supervise Mr. Roussell and instructed him to perform the work in an unsafe manner. (Doc. 22 at 2). Because the present action arises out of the Clean Harbors Defendants' allegedly tortious conduct in Louisiana, the plaintiff maintains that there is specific jurisdiction over the Clean Harbors Defendants generally. (Id.). The plaintiff urges that it would be reasonable to hale the Clean Harbors Defendants into Louisiana, as Ms. Roussell and her minor child have an interest in litigating in Louisiana, and the state has an interest in providing relief for its citizens. (Doc. 22 at 8).

         In the plaintiff's state-court petition, she alleges that Mr. Roussell worked for the Clean Harbors Defendants at the time of his injury. (Doc. 1-1 at 4). In briefing, she explains that Mr. Roussell was part of a team of contractors from Clean Harbors and CH Environmental Services. (Doc. 22 at 2). Mr. Roussell is treated as an employee of both entities throughout the remainder of the memorandum, without any distinction made between the two. (Doc. 22). However, the affidavit to which the plaintiff cites in support of this contention states only that Mr. Roussell was part of a team from “Clean Harbors, Inc., Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc., or one of its affiliated entities” that performed services at the Chalmette refinery. (Doc. 15-1 at 3).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “When a nonresident defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the district court's jurisdiction over the defendant.” Wilson v. Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 648 (5th Cir. 1994). The plaintiff is required to make a prima facie showing that establishes the court's jurisdiction, and the court “must resolve all undisputed facts submitted by the plaintiff, as well as all facts contested in the affidavits, in favor of jurisdiction.” Luv N' Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause ensures that a federal court cannot assume personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant “unless the defendant has meaningful ‘contacts, ties, or relations' with the forum state.” Luv N' Care, 438 F.3d at 469 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 319 (1945)). “Jurisdiction may be general or specific.” Id.

         “A federal court sitting in diversity may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant (1) as allowed under the state's long-arm statute; and (2) to the extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Mullins v. Testamerica, Inc., 564 F.3d 386, 398 (5th Cir. 2009). “The Louisiana long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant as far as is permitted by due process.” Lancer Ins. Co. v. Patel, 102 F.Supp.2d 704, 707 (W.D. La. 2000) (citing La. R.S. § 13:3201(B)).

         To exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the suit must be related to the defendant's contacts with the forum state. Id. The constitutional requirements for specific jurisdiction are satisfied where the defendant has “‘minimum contacts with the State such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” In Re Dupuy Orthopaedics, Inc., 888 F.3d 753, 778 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 126 (2014)). However, “[w]here a defendant has ‘continuous and systematic general business contacts' with the forum state, the court may exercise ‘general' jurisdiction over any action brought against that defendant.” Luv N' Care, 438 F.3d at 469 (quoting Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415 (1984)) (citation omitted); see also Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011) (“A court may assert general jurisdiction ...


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