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Out-of-State Gasket Fabricatorís Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Granted in Baltimore City Asbestos Personal Injury Cases

In re: Baltimore City Asbestos Litigation
Case No. 24X87048500 (Baltimore City Circuit Court), (March 2014)

by Colleen K. OíBrien, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

The Circuit Court for Baltimore City recently granted a New York-based gasket fabricatorís Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction in ten (10) asbestos personal injury cases pending against that fabricator in Maryland and filed by the Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik, LLP (ďNapoli BernĒ) Plaintiffsí firm. An additional six (6) cases filed against this fabricator by either the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, P.C., Napoli Bern, or Matthew E. Kiely, LLC, had previously been voluntarily dismissed. In these cases, the Plaintiffs alleged that they were exposed to asbestos-containing gaskets in and outside of Maryland fabricated by the New York-based company, and sought to hold the company liable for their alleged asbestos-related conditions under claims of strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

Following submission of motions papers, supplemental motions papers, two (2) jurisdictional depositions and written discovery limited to jurisdiction, on February 20, 2014, in a bench ruling during a telephonic hearing, the Honorable John M. Glynn granted the out-of-state fabricatorís Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Factually significant to the Court was that the fabricator never sold any asbestos-containing products in Maryland, and further, since the early 1990ís, it had only sold non-asbestos containing products to a manufacturer that had a storage facility in Maryland. Jurisdictional discovery had revealed that during 2012, the fabricator only had two (2) Maryland customers. Over a ten (10) year period ending with 2012, the fabricatorís sales in Maryland averaged less than six percent of its overall annual sales. All of the fabricatorís employees worked at the companyís sole headquarters in New York; any product fabricated by the fabricator was fabricated at facilities in New York; the fabricator had only ever filed taxes in New York; and, the company was incorporated in New York and had only ever been registered to do business in New York. To the Court, the out-of-state fabricatorís limited connection to Maryland was not sufficient contact with the forum state to justify personal jurisdiction. The Court specifically noted during the hearing that the Defendant may have shipped product to a customer that had a warehouse in Maryland, but he did not find that nexus significant to justify exercising jurisdiction over the Defendant. Consequently, the Court granted the fabricatorís Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.