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Hodjera v. BASF Catalysts, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 23, 2017

MATTHEW HODJERA and SYLVIA HODJERA, Plaintiffs,
v.
BASF CATALYSTS LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DANA CANADA CORPORATION'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

          ROBERT S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Dana Canada Corporation's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Dkt. # 98. 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 Dana Canada Corporation (“Dana Canada”) moves to dismiss, arguing that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. Having reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties, the Court grants the motion for the reasons that follow.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         According 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.

         On 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 defendants have moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Dana Canada argues that the complaint fails to allege facts supporting personal jurisdiction over it. Dana Canada is a Canadian corporation with its principal place of business in Ontario. Dkt. # 99, ¶¶ 2, 3. Dana Canada is not registered to do business in Washington; nor does it have facilities, real property, or employees in Washington. Id., ¶ 4. The complaint's only allegations specific to Dana Canada are that it has “been engaged in the mining, processing, manufacture, sale, and distribution of asbestos or asbestos-containing products and machinery requiring or calling for the use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, ” Dkt. # 1-1 at 5, and that it “knew or should have known of the specific medical and scientific data, literature and test results relating to the manufacture, as well as to the grinding and drilling, of automobile asbestos containing brake linings and/or clutch friction materials, which first began to be known or knowledgeable to defendants in the 1930's, ” Dkt. # 1-1 at 11-12. The complaint does not allege that Dana Canada's products were present in Toronto between 1986 and 1994. See generally Dkt. # 1-1.

         Due 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 Dana Canada. 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, [2] there are two ways to establish that the Court has personal jurisdiction over a particular defendant. Id. at 753-55. This order considers each in turn.

         A. General Jurisdiction

         A 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. Because Dana Canada is not incorporated in Washington and does not have its principal place of business in Washington, the Court agrees that it lacks general personal jurisdiction over Dana Canada. See Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 760-61 (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011)).

         B. Specific Jurisdiction

         A 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).

         Plaintiffs fail to satisfy the second prong of the specific jurisdiction, which requires that their claim arise out of the defendant's purposeful contacts with the forum state. Though plaintiffs allege that Mr. Hodjera's asbestos exposure occurred in Toronto, Ontario, where Dana Canada presumably conducted business, Dkt. # 1-1 at 4, plaintiffs have not alleged that Mr. Hodjera's exposure in Ontario would not have occurred “but for” Dana Canada's contacts with Washington, as is required for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Dana Canada. See Menken v. Emm, 503 F.3d 1050, 1058 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Moreover, plaintiffs have failed to argue that Dana Canada purposefully availed itself of this Washington forum by selling products in Washington state or otherwise. See generally Dkt. # 113. Instead, plaintiffs argue that the fairness prong of the specific jurisdiction test should be sufficient in this case: “it would be manifestly unfair to this dying plaintiff and his wife to break this case up into multiple claims and require plaintiffs to start over in many different states.” Dkt. # 113 at 11. While the Court sympathizes with the plaintiffs' circumstances, the Constitution does not permit it to exercise jurisdiction over a particular defendant merely because it would be most fair to the plaintiff. See Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 319 (1945) (“[The due process] clause does not contemplate that a state may make binding a judgment in ...


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