Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Nov. 17, 2014, 10:42am

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) – The asbestos multidistrict litigation judge has granted 32 motions to dismiss in the maritime docket for cases that were originally filed in the district court for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Judge Eduardo Robreno filed his Oct. 23 order dismissing the defendants due to lack of personal jurisdiction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The claimants in these cases are various merchant marines and their representatives and families.

A total of 18 defendant companies are involved in the dismissal disputes. They claim the MDL court may not exercise personal jurisdiction over them because they lack sufficient contacts with the Virgin Islands.

The defendant companies can be split into three groups: those with no contacts in the Virgin Islands, those with no contacts themselves but are related to other entities with contacts and those that have some level of forum contacts.

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that the court holds general jurisdiction over the defendants.

The court disagreed and concluded that it lacks jurisdiction and granted all 32 motions to dismiss.

Addressing the six defendants with no Virgin Islands contacts, Robreno stated “it is clear the court lacks personal jurisdiction over them.”

The companies maintain their principal places of business elsewhere and they allege they have never been residents of the Virgin Islands. They do not have offices and are not even licensed to do business in the forum at issue.

Additionally, they do not have financial ties to the Virgin Islands and did not own or operate vessels in Virgin Islands waters, the court stated.

Moving on to the six defendants that are subsidiaries or parents of other companies with forum contacts, Robreno concluded that the plaintiffs failed to plead the basic requirements in relation to these defendants. Therefore, he held that the court doesn’t need to consider forum contacts of the related entities in order to determine that dismissal is appropriate.

He explained that the plaintiffs failed to allege that any of the entities with Virgin Islands contacts are alter egos of the defendants.

“They merely state that the defendant is the parent or subsidiary of another entity and then list that entity’s forum contacts,” the order states.

“This is insufficient to establish alter ego as the plaintiffs do not contend that the defendants exercise any degree of heightened control over the other entities,” he added.

As for the six defendants with some direct contacts with the forum at issue, Robreno concluded that “none of the defendants can be said to have such substantial and continuous contacts with the Virgin Islands that it is ‘essentially at home’ there as it would be if it were incorporated or had its principal place of business there.”

As a result, Robreno concluded that the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead the required facts which would allow the court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendants and granted dismissal.

“The plaintiffs do not allege, and cannot allege, that the court has specific jurisdiction (based on the long-arm statute or constitutional due process) over any of the defendants as their claims do not arise from the defendants’ activities in the Virgin Islands,” the order states.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Heather Isringhausen Gvillo at asbestos@legalnewsline.com

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