Louisiana Federal Judge Grants 30-Day Inquiry Into Contacts With State

NEW ORLEANS — Asbestos plaintiffs have not shown any connection between Rohm & Haas Chemicals LLC and Louisiana sufficient for jurisdiction purposes, but may yet if they can show that the company is responsible for asbestos at Weeks Island Morton Salt facility, a federal judge in the state held March 23 in granting jurisdictional discovery (Leech, et al. v. 3M. Co., et al., No. 17-446, W.D. La., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48197).

William Leech was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2016 and died just three days later. His widow and surviving children filed suit, claiming that he suffered exposure as a construction engineer at various sites in Louisiana, California, Arizona, Virginia and other states between 1965 and 1992. Some of the exposures occurred at the Morton Salt facility in Weeks Island, La. Defendant Honeywell International Inc. removed the action to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana from the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

Jurisdiction

Defendant Rohm & Haas (ROH), sued as the alleged successor to Morton International Inc., moved to dismiss the action, claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction. The plaintiffs conceded that they could not assert general jurisdiction over ROH, but claim that Morton Salt, Dow Chemical Co. and ROH purposely directed activities at Weeks Island. The plaintiffs argue that ROH’s motion is premature because more time is needed to investigate who is currently liable for conduct at the Weeks Island facility.

Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown noted that the plaintiffs reference “Rohm & Haas” in their complaint just once, listing it as successor to Morton International Inc. But this leaves open the question of which ROH entity the plaintiffs are suing. While the plaintiffs allege claims against premises defendants, there is nothing linking ROH to Louisiana, Judge Brown concluded.

If, however, it turns out that Rohm & Haas is liable for the asbestos at the Weeks Island facility, it would appear that specific jurisdiction would exist, Judge Brown said.

As a result, Judge Brown denied the motion without prejudice and granted the plaintiffs 30 days to conduct jurisdictional discovery and 60 days to file an amended complaint.

Tyson B. Shofstahl of Adams & Reese represents ROH. Lindsey A. Cheek of The Cheek Law Firm represents the plaintiffs. Both are in New Orleans.


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