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Hodjera v. BASF Catalysts LLC

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

July 31, 2017

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

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC.'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

          Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s motion for judgment on the pleadings for lack of personal jurisdiction. Dkt. # 152. 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 Honeywell International Inc. (“Honeywell”) moves for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), 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

         Like a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a motion for judgment on the pleadings tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint; the same standard applies to both types of motions. See Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 & n.4 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Here, Honeywell argues that plaintiffs' complaint fails to allege facts supporting personal jurisdiction over it. Honeywell is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Dkt. # 152 at 2 n.1. The complaint's only allegations specific to Honeywell are 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, ” Dkt. # 1-1 at 11-12. The complaint does not allege that Honeywell'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 Honeywell. 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 Honeywell 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 Honeywell. 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 argue that Mr. Hodjera's illness was caused by his exposure to “asbestos and asbestos-containing products that were mined, manufactured, produced, and/or placed into the stream of commerce by the defendants in this case.” Dkt. # 165 at 3. To establish personal jurisdiction over Honeywell, plaintiffs allege that Bendix Corporation, Honeywell's predecessor-in-interest, purposefully availed itself of this Washington forum by manufacturing friction materials for use in brakes, that these materials contained asbestos, and that Mr. Hodjera worked with these friction materials. Dkt. # 173 at 8-9. Plaintiffs further allege that Honeywell is licensed to do business in Washington state, and that it has offices ...


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