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Bondurant v. 3M Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 15, 2019

TERRY BONDURANT
v.
3M COMPANY, ET AL.

         SECTION: “J”(5)

          ORDER & REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Rec. Doc. 42) filed by Defendant Eastman Kodak Company (“Kodak”), an opposition thereto filed by Plaintiff (Rec. Doc. 50), a reply memorandum by Kodak (Rec. Doc. 56), and a sur-reply from Plaintiff (Rec. Doc. 59). Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This litigation arises from personal injuries allegedly sustained as a result of exposure to asbestos. Plaintiff alleges that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of being exposed to asbestos in connection with his work as an electrician at various refineries and chemical plants in Louisiana and Texas between 1964 and 1979.[1]During this time, Plaintiff worked for Kodak as a contractor at the Eastman Kodak Chemical facility in Longview, Texas.[2]

         Kodak is incorporated in New Jersey and has its principal place of business in New York.[3] Kodak also operates facilities in Louisiana, although Plaintiff does not allege that he ever worked at any of those facilities.

         Plaintiff initially filed suit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.[4] Kodak filed exceptions, asserting, inter alia, lack of personal jurisdiction.[5] The action was then removed to this Court.[6] Kodak now moves to dismiss all claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. It asserts the Court lacks general jurisdiction over it because neither its place of incorporation nor principal place of business are in Louisiana, and further contends the Court lacks specific jurisdiction over it because the harms Plaintiff alleges were caused by Kodak-his exposure to asbestos at a Kodak facility- occurred in Texas, not Louisiana.

         Plaintiff first contends that Kodak’s business activities in Louisiana over the last 54 years are sufficient to establish general jurisdiction. Next, Plaintiff asserts that Kodak’s registration to do business and appointment of an agent for service of process in Louisiana establish its consent to jurisdiction under Louisiana law. Plaintiff maintains that this Court may exercise specific jurisdiction over Kodak because its negligent failure to warn Plaintiff that continued exposure to asbestos would increase the risk of harm “occurred at least partially in Louisiana.”[7] Plaintiff further argues that Kodak has not carried its burden of showing that the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over it would be unreasonable, and that exercising jurisdiction in this case serves the interests of judicial economy because otherwise Plaintiff would have to file a separate action in Texas for his alleged exposures that occurred there. Finally, in the alternative, Plaintiff requests that the Court allow jurisdictional discovery before dismissing Kodak from this case.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits dismissal of a suit for lack of personal jurisdiction. “Where a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the party seeking to invoke the power of the court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists.” Luv N'Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006). However, the plaintiff is not required to establish jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence; a prima facie showing is sufficient. Id. The court must accept the plaintiff’s uncontroverted allegations and resolve all conflicts between the facts contained in the parties’ affidavits and other documentation in favor of jurisdiction. Id.

         A federal court sitting in diversity must satisfy two requirements to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Pervasive Software Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 220 (5th Cir. 2012). “First, the forum state’s long-arm statute must confer personal jurisdiction. Second, the exercise of jurisdiction must not exceed the boundaries of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. The limits of the Louisiana long-arm statute are coextensive with constitutional due process limits. Jackson v. Tanfoglio Giuseppe, SRL, 615 F.3d 579, 584 (5th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the inquiry here is whether jurisdiction comports with federal constitutional guarantees. See id.

         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no federal court may assume personal jurisdiction of a non-resident defendant unless the defendant has certain “minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court has recognized two types of personal jurisdiction: specific and general. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017).

         Specific jurisdiction is limited to “adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To establish specific jurisdiction, a plaintiff must show that “(1) there are sufficient (i.e., not random fortuitous or attenuated) pre-litigation connections between the non-resident defendant and the forum; (2) the connection has been purposefully established by the defendant; and (3) the plaintiff’s cause of action arises out of or is related to the defendant’s forum contacts.” Pervasive Software, 688 F.3d at 221 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The defendant can then defeat the exercise of specific jurisdiction by showing that it would be unreasonable. Id. at 221-22.

         General jurisdiction, however, does not require a showing of contacts out of which the cause of action arose. See Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919. Where general jurisdiction exists, a court may “hear any and all claims against [the defendant].” Id. The proper consideration when determining whether general jurisdiction exists is “not whether a foreign corporation’s in-forum contacts can be said to be in some sense continuous and systematic, it is whether that corporation’s affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 138 (2014) (alteration in original) (internal ...


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