Glazier Yee Wins Key Second Circuit Affirmation Of First Asbestos Litigation Personal Jurisdiction Challenge

Glazier Yee Wins Key Second Circuit Affirmation Of First Asbestos Litigation Personal Jurisdiction Challenge

The Second Circuit affirms the judgment of the District Court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Lockheed Martin Corporation for want of personal jurisdiction.


14-4083-cv
Brown v. Lockheed Martin Corp.

United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
______________

August Term, 2015

(Argued: October 8, 2015 Decided: February 18, 2016)

No. 14‐4083
______________

CINDY S. BROWN, as Personal Representative
to the Estate of Walter E. Brown,

Plaintiff‐Appellant,
–v.–

LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP., individually
and as successor‐in‐interest to Martin‐Marietta Corp.,

Defendant‒Appellee.*
______________
B e f o r e :

PARKER, LYNCH, and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.
______________

Acting as personal representative of her late father’s estate, Plaintiff‐
Appellant Cindy S. Brown appeals from a final judgment of the United States
District Court for the District of Connecticut (Thompson, J.) dismissing for want
of personal jurisdiction her claims against Defendant-Appellee Lockheed Martin
Corporation. Brown―who resides in Alabama, as did her late father―seeks to
recover in tort from Lockheed and others for her father’s injuries related to his
past asbestos exposure in locations outside of Connecticut. Lockheed―which is
incorporated and maintains its principal place of business in Maryland―leases
some space and employs some workers in Connecticut. In accordance with
Connecticut law, it registered to do business and appointed an agent to accept
service in the state. Brown contends that by its registration and appointment of an agent,
Lockheed consented to the exercise of general jurisdiction over it by
Connecticut courts and that due process constraints have no bearing on the
exercise of jurisdiction so conferred. Brown also contends that Lockheed’s
contacts with Connecticut in any event suffice to support the exercise of general
jurisdiction over Lockheed by Connecticut courts. We decide that Lockheed did
not consent to the exercise of general jurisdiction over it. Apart from the effect of
its registration, we conclude further that, under Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations,
S.A. v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 2846 (2011), and Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746
(2014), Lockheed’s contacts with Connecticut were not sufficient to support a
Connecticut court’s exercise of general personal jurisdiction over the company.
We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the District Court dismissing Brown’s
claims.
______________

LISA W. SHIRLEY (Jessica M. Dean, on the brief), Simon
Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, Dallas, Texas, for Cindy S.
Brown.

DAN HIMMELFARB, Mayer Brown LLP, Washington, DC (Guy
P. Glazier, Brian T. Clark, Glazier Yee LLP, Los Angeles, CA;
Matthew J. Zamaloff, Cetrulo LLP, Boston, MA, on the brief), for
Lockheed Martin Corp.
______________

CARNEY, Circuit Judge:
We confront here a nettlesome and increasingly contentious question
about the import of a foreign corporation’s registration to conduct business and
appointment of an agent for service of process in a state for the exercise of
personal jurisdiction by that state’s courts over the registered corporation. Here,
the state is Connecticut, and the terms of its registration and appointment
statutes are unclear as to whether they purport to confer on the state’s courts the
power to exercise general jurisdiction over duly registered foreign corporations.
Such jurisdiction would give Connecticut courts the power to adjudicate any
matter concerning any registered corporation, no matter where the matter arose
and no matter how limited the state’s interest in the dispute.

The question arises in this context: As personal representative of her
father’s estate, Plaintiff-Appellant Cindy S. Brown appeals from a final judgment
of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Thompson, J.)
dismissing for want of personal jurisdiction the tort claims that Brown’s late
father asserts against Defendant-Appellee Lockheed Martin Corporation
(“Lockheed”). See Brown v. CBS Corp., 19 F. Supp. 3d 390 (D. Conn. 2014). Brown
seeks to recover in tort from Lockheed and others for injuries suffered by her
father as a result of asbestos exposure sustained by him during his work as an
Air Force airplane mechanic in locations in Europe and around the United States,
but not in Connecticut. Lockheed, a major aerospace company with a worldwide
presence, is both incorporated and maintains its principal place of business in
Maryland. In 1995, it registered to do business in Connecticut and appointed an
agent for service, in compliance with Connecticut law. Between 2008 and 2012, it
leased space in four locations in Connecticut, and employed between
approximately 30 and 70 workers in the state.

Conceding the absence of any basis for the exercise of specific jurisdiction
over Lockheed by Connecticut courts (and, derivatively, by the federal district
court in Connecticut), Brown contends that Lockheed consented to having those
courts in Connecticut exercise general jurisdiction over it by registering—years
earlier—to do business in the state and appointing an agent to receive service of
process there. Brown also contends that, even apart from its registration in the
state, the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct.
746 (2014), and Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, 1 S.A. v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 2846
(2011), support the demand for the District Court’s exercise of general
jurisdiction over Lockheed in Connecticut because the company’s contacts with
Connecticut were “continuous and systematic” enough to place it “essentially at
home” in the state. Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 761 (quoting Goodyear, 131 S. Ct. at
2851).

Lockheed resists. It argues primarily that, although by registering to do
business it may have consented to the state’s exercise of specific jurisdiction over
it, the company did not consent to the exercise of general jurisdiction there. It
further stresses that, even if its registration and appointment of an agent for
service of process could be taken as some form of consent, the exercise of general
jurisdiction over it by Connecticut state courts would offend the Fourteenth
Amendment’s guarantee of due process, in light of the gross disproportion
between its few Connecticut contacts and its very substantial activity worldwide.

The District Court dismissed the suit against Lockheed. Looking to two
Connecticut Appellate Court decisions, it ruled that, although those decisions
suggest that Lockheed’s registration under the Connecticut statutes might permit
it to exercise general personal jurisdiction over Lockheed, the registration
statute’s power is bounded by federal due process principles developed in
Daimler and Goodyear. In the District Court’s estimation, those principles
preclude the court’s exercise of general jurisdiction over the company when the
company’s contacts with the state are so limited. See Brown, 19 F. Supp. 3d at
394, 396–400.

We reach the same conclusion―that the District Court did not have
general jurisdiction over Lockheed―albeit by a somewhat different route. First,
applying the due process principles of Daimler and Goodyear, we comfortably
conclude that Lockheed’s contacts with Connecticut, while perhaps “continuous
and systematic,” fall well below the high level needed to place the corporation
“essentially at home” in the state. Second, upon our examination of the
applicable Connecticut law, we conclude that by registering to transact business
and appointing an agent under the Connecticut statutes―which do not speak
clearly on this point―Lockheed did not consent to the state courts’ exercise of
general jurisdiction over it. A more sweeping interpretation would raise
constitutional concerns prudently avoided absent a clearer statement by the state
legislature or the Connecticut Supreme Court.

We therefore AFFIRM the judgment of the District Court dismissing
Brown’s claims for want of personal jurisdiction.

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