United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT WHITTAKER, CLARK &
DANIELS, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS
Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on defendant Whittaker, Clark
& Daniels, Inc.'s motion to dismiss. Dkt. ## 17, 18,
Plaintiffs Matthew and Sylvia Hodjera, a married couple,
allege that Mr. Hodjera's mesothelioma was proximately
caused by various corporate defendants' manufacture,
sale, and/or distribution of asbestos-containing products.
Defendant Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc.
(“WCD”) moves to dismiss, arguing that this Court
lacks personal jurisdiction over it. WCD further argues that
the complaint fails to include any factual allegations
regarding WCD and thus fails to state a claim against it.
Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits
submitted by the parties, the Court grants the motion for the
reasons that follow.
to the complaint, Mr. Hodjera was exposed to asbestos or
asbestos-containing products in Toronto, Ontario, between
1986 and 1994. Dkt. # 1-1 at 4. On May 20, 2016, Mr. Hodjera
was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Id.
December 2, 2016, plaintiffs filed suit in King County
Superior Court, alleging that Mr. Hodjera's mesothelioma
had been proximately caused by the manufacture, sale, and/or
distribution of asbestos-containing products by the following
defendants: BASF Catalysts LLC; BorgWarner Morse Tec Inc.;
Central Precision Limited; Charles B. Chrystal Company, Inc.;
Dana Companies, LLC; Dana Canada Corp.; DAP Products, Inc.;
Felt Products Mfg. Co.; Honeywell International Inc.; Imerys
Talc America, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Johnson &
Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.; Pneumo Abex LLC; Union
Carbide Corporation; Vanderbilt Minerals LLC; Volkswagen
Aktiengesellschaft; Volkswagen Group of Canada; Volkswagen
Group of America, Inc.; Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc.;
and Does 1-350, inclusive. Dkt. # 1-1 at 2-3. On January 11,
2017, defendant Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. removed the
case. Dkt. # 1. Various motions to dismiss are now pending
before the Court.
argues that the complaint fails to allege facts supporting
either personal jurisdiction over WCD or a plausible claim
for relief against WCD. Because the Court finds that it lacks
personal jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims against
WCD, it does not reach the question whether plaintiffs have
successfully pled those claims.
a New Jersey corporation with its principal place of business
in Stamford, Connecticut. Dkt. # 19-2, ¶ 3. WCD ceased
all active business operations in February 2004 and currently
exists to manage assets and liabilities. Id., ¶
4. WCD has no real property, offices, employees, or
registered agents in Washington state. Id.,
¶¶ 5-8. The complaint contains no allegations
regarding WCD: no mention of WCD's product, no discussion
of Mr. Hodjera's contact with that product, no allegation
that WCD's products were present in Toronto between 1986
and 1994. Indeed, after listing WCD as a defendant in the
caption, the complaint does not mention WCD at all. See
generally Dkt. # 1-1.
process requires a district court to have personal
jurisdiction over a defendant in order to adjudicate a claim
against it. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753
(2014). Plaintiffs have the burden of demonstrating that the
Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over WCD. Harris
Rutsky & Co. Ins. Services, Inc. v. Bell & Clements
Ltd., 328 F.3d 1122, 1128-29 (9th Cir. 2003). Absent an
evidentiary hearing, plaintiffs need only make, through the
submission of pleadings and affidavits, a prima facie showing
of facts supporting personal jurisdiction to avoid dismissal.
Myers v. Bennett Law Offices, 238 F.3d 1068, 1071
(9th Cir. 2001). Provided the long-arm statute of the state
in which the Court sits permits the Court's exercise of
personal jurisdiction,  there are two ways to establish that
the Court has personal jurisdiction over a particular
defendant. Id. at 753-55. This order considers each
defendant is subject to a court's general personal
jurisdiction when its contacts are “so constant and
pervasive as to render it essentially at home” in the
forum. Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 751 (internal
quotation and brackets omitted). General jurisdiction over a
party ensures personal jurisdiction over that party for any
claim, regardless of that claim's relationship to the
forum. Id. at 761. WCD argues that it has no
contacts with Washington state, let alone contacts “so
constant and pervasive as to render it essentially at
home” here. Plaintiffs do not dispute this point. The
Court lacks general jurisdiction over WCD.
defendant may also be sued in a forum where it has minimal
contacts, provided those contacts are purposefully directed
at the forum, the claim arises out of those contacts, and the
exercise of jurisdiction over that party is reasonable.
See Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1155
(9th Cir. 2006).
argue that Mr. Hodjera's illness was caused in part by
his use of cosmetic products containing talc that WCD had
sold. Dkt. # 51 at 2. To establish personal jurisdiction over
WCD, plaintiffs argue that WCD purposefully availed itself of
this Washington forum by selling talc to Johnson &
Johnson for nationwide distribution in cosmetic products.
Dkt. # 51 at 2. Plaintiffs attach a portion of deposition
testimony explaining that WCD built a talc plant, called
Metropolitan Talc, with the goal of supplying customers with
talc produced by that plant. Dkt. # 52-3 at 9. Plaintiffs
also attach a 1970 letter from the president of Metropolitan