MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of Alabama has denied a petition for writ mandamus from several out-of-state companies that allegedly discharged chemicals from their Georgia plants into industrial wastewater.
In their Supreme Court appeal, the defendants 3M Co. and others questioned whether the Etowah and Cherokee circuit courts that initially refused to grant their motion to dismiss had personal jurisdiction over them. They asked the Supreme Court to order the lower courts to dismiss the negligence and intentional tort case filed by plaintiffs Water Works and Sewer Board of the Town Centre and the Water Works and Sewer Board of the city of Gadsden.
The plaintiffs allege the discharged chemicals contaminated their downstream water sources in Alabama.
Some of the defendants are headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, 70 and 90 miles from Centre and Gadsden respectively. Still, the judges ruled that the alleged occurrence actually took place in Alabama and could impact some of the state’s residents.
“We conclude that the trial courts may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the remaining defendants and that the remaining defendants have not demonstrated a clear legal right to relief at this stage,” wrote Justice Sarah Hicks Stewart in the Dec. 20 ruling as she denied the writ of mandamus petition.
Chief Justice Tom Parker and Justice Kelli Wise concurred.
Justice Tommy Bryan concurred in the result, while justices Mike Bolin, Will Sellers and Brady E. Mendheim Jr. dissented.
Justices Greg Shaw and Jay Mitchell recused themselves.
In his dissent, Sellers pointed out that the plaintiffs focused on their claim that the defendants knew their chemicals would reach Alabama when they were released. He said he believes the foreseeability factor isn’t enough to solely prove and claim personal jurisdiction.
He added that since there’s no evidence to prove the defendants “directly aimed the allegedly tainted wastewater at Alabama,” the requirements for minimum contacts in Alabama have not been met.