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King County v. Viracon Inc

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

October 29, 2019

KING COUNTY, Plaintiff,


          Barbara Jacobs Rothstein, U.S. District Court Judge.


         Plaintiff King County (“King County”) instituted this action against Defendants Viracon, Inc. (“Viracon”), Quanex IG Systems, Inc. (“Quanex IG Systems”), and Truseal Technologies, Inc. (“Truseal”), alleging fraud, strict liability, and violations of Washington State's Consumer Protection Act based on the construction of a building own by King County. See Dkt. No. 12. Currently before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Quanex IG Systems and Truseal (collectively “Defendants”).[1] Dkt. No. 32. Defendants move to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and (6), arguing that: (1) they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in Washington State and (2) the First Amended Complaint does not state a cognizable claim for relief. King County opposes the motion. Dkt. No. 37. Having reviewed the motion, the opposition thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authority, the Court will grant the motion. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.


         King County is a government entity and political subdivision of the State of Washington. Dkt. No. 12 at ¶ 1.1. Viracon is incorporated and headquartered in Minnesota and in the business of manufacturing insulating glass units (“IGUs”) for distribution and sale throughout the United States, including Washington State. Id. at ¶ 1.2. Quanex IG Systems is an Ohio corporation headquartered in Texas; Truseal is a Delaware corporation also headquartered in Texas. Id. at ¶¶ 1.3-1.4. King County alleges that both Quanex IG Systems and Truseal manufacture building products for distribution and sale in the United States, including Washington State. Id.

         At the center of this lawsuit is an office building-“the Chinook Building”-located in Seattle, Washington that is owned by King County. Id. at ¶ 5.1. The Chinook Building was built in 2007 and has what the parties refer to as a “curtainwall” exterior-an exterior comprised of IGUs that are framed by metal joinery and set within openings clad in granite. Id. at 5.2. The IGUs consist of double paned windows with a hermetically sealed air space between the panes of glass that provides thermal and acoustical insulation. Id. at 5.3. Polyisobutylene-based sealant (“PIB-based sealant”) is used to seal the window panes. Id. at ¶ 5.4. The Chinook Building's exterior has nearly 3, 000 IGUs. Id. at 5.3.

         King County alleges that Viracon manufactured and supplied the IGUs installed on the Chinook Building, while Defendants manufactured the PIB-based sealant used by Viracon to seal the IGUs. Id. at 5.4. King County further alleges that the PIB-based sealant used to create the IGUs' hermetic seal is failing, causing a film to migrate “into the sightlines and glass of the [IGUs].” Id. at 5.10. The County alleges that the film impairs visibility and affects the overall appearance of the Chinook Building. Id. According to King County, the film “is present with varying degrees of severity on all of the Building's nearly 3, 000 [IGUs].” Id. at 5.9.

         King County asserts that the industry standard is to use black PIB-based sealant in IGUs because the black sealant “include[s] an ingredient called carbon black that protect[s] the PIB from degrading in sunlight.” Id. at 5.12. However, King County alleges, instead of using black PIB-based sealant in the IGUs for the Chinook Building, Viracon sealed the IGUs with gray PIB-based sealant that was manufactured by Defendants. According to King County, Viracon and Defendants knew that the gray PIB-based sealant was “defective and its performance [] inferior to that of [b]lack PIB” and, as such, the use of gray PIB-based sealant would render the IGUs “[un]suitable for their intended purpose[]” on the Chinook Building. Id. at 5.13.

         Indeed, King County claims, at the time that the IGUs with the gray PIB-based sealant were installed on the Chinook Building, Viracon and Defendants each knew of other buildings that had Viracon-manufactured IGUs with gray PIB-based sealant that were experiencing the same issues that the Chinook Building is now experiencing. Id. at 5.14. Therefore, King County charges, Viracon and Defendants “understood and knew that the types of damages King County complains of [in this lawsuit] were likely to occur, more likely to occur than if standard [b]lack PIB were [sic] used in the [IGUs], and did nothing to prevent the [g]ray PIB from reaching the marketplace, or prevent the installation on the Building of [IGUs] using the [g]ray PIB.” Id. at 5.15.


         As stated above, Defendants Quanex IG Systems and Truseal move this Court to dismiss the claims stated against them on two grounds. First, Defendants argue that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them and therefore the claims must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). Alternatively, Defendants argue that the First Amended Complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted and therefore the claims must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         A. Standard of Review on a Rule 12(b)(2) Motion

         In a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden to show that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant, but “in the absence of an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a ‘prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.'” Washington Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods Inc., 704 F.3d 668, 671-72 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006)). “[F]or the purpose of [the prima facie] demonstration, the court resolves all disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Pebble Beach Co., 453 F.3d at 1154 (citing Doe v. Unocal, 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001)). However, the plaintiff “cannot simply rest on bare allegations of the Complaint, but rather is obligated to come forward with facts, by affidavit or otherwise, supporting personal jurisdiction.” Microsoft Corp. v. Communications & Data Sys. Consultants, 127 F.Supp.3d 1107, 1113 (W.D. Wash. 2015).

         “Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction[.]” Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 125 (2014)). As Washington State's long-arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the constitution, Shute v. CarnivalCruise Lines, 783 P.2d 78, 79 (Wash. 1989), the court's “inquiry centers on whether exercising jurisdiction comports with due process, ” Picot, 780 F.3d at 1211. Due process, in turn, “requires that the defendant ‘have certain minimum contacts' with the forum state ‘such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair ...

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