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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

California court reverses motion to quash ruling in wrongful death case over humidifier cleaner


By Charmaine Little | Feb 6, 2019

Justice Dennis M. Perluss

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A California appellate court has directed a lower court to enter a new motion denying a motion to quash service of summons in a wrongful death case over a humidifier cleaner.

While the Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted Aekyung Industrial Co. LTD’s motion to quash after it was sued by Jayone Foods Inc. for selling Jayone a cleaning agent, Humidifier Mate, that’s alleged to have caused a death, Court of Appeal of the State of California in the 2nd Appellate District, Division Seven reversed the decision Jan. 22. 

The family of Sunja An sued Jayone, a California importer and distributor of Korean goods, over allegations of wrongful death in a second amended complaint. The suit stated An used the Aekyung Humidifier Cleaning Agent for several years and developed a cough in 2008 that worsened. According to the court's opinion, An was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2012 and died the following year from the disease.

Jayone in turn filed a cross complaint against Aeykung in December 2015 and Aekyung filed a motion to quash service of summons on the cross complaint in July 2016.

Aekyung was granted its motion to quash for lack of personal jurisdiction by the Superior Court.

“Because Jayone does not contend that Aekyung is subject to California’s general jurisdiction, we need only consider whether specific jurisdiction over Aekyung exists,” the Appeals Court explained. “We conclude that it does.”

It determined Jayone properly proved that Aekyung purposefully availed itself the privilege of operating in California considering it has directly sold products to distributors in California, such as Jayone itself.

While the lower court said Jayone didn’t properly meet the requirements concerning the prong of specific jurisdiction, the Appeals Court disagreed. It said the lower court had much too narrow of a method to determine Jayone used it incorrectly.

“Jayone met its burden of showing that plaintiff’s wrongful death action is related to or arises out of Aekyung’s sale of the Humidifier Mate,” the opinion states.

Plus, the appeals court also disagreed with Aekyung's arguments citing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California.

"Aekyung contends that the fact that it twice sold the Humidifier Mate to Jayone is insufficient to establish specific jurisdiction in the absence of evidence showing how or by whom the particular bottles purchased by An were distributed to the retail store that sold them to her," the opinion states. "This contention lacks merit."

Judge Laurie D. Zelon authored the opinion and judges Dennis M. Perluss and John L. Segal concurred.

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