A.O.A. v. Rennert

Decision Date16 October 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 4:11 CV 44 CDP
Citation350 F.Supp.3d 818
Parties A.O.A., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Ira L. RENNERT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Elizabeth M. Wilkins, Jerome J. Schlichter, Roger C. Denton, Tara Rocque, Aaron E. Schwartz, Denisse Icenogle, Kristine K. Kraft, Meghan K. McGlynn, Nelson G. Wolff, Schlichter and Bogard, LLP, St. Louis, MO, Jay R. Halpern, Jay Halpern and Associates, P.A., Coral Gables, FL, William J. Dubanevich, The Law Offices of William J. Dubanevich, New York, NY, Jay L.T. Breakstone, Michael S. Werner, Parker Waichman, LLP, Port Washington, NY, Jorge Alejandro Garcia-Menocal, Garcia-Menocal and Irias, Eduardo Ayala Maura, Ayala Law, Miami, FL, Jay Patrick Dinan, Parker Waichman, Bonita Springs, FL, for Plaintiffs.

C. David Goerisch, Michael J. Hickey, Patrick J. Thornton, Richard A. Ahrens, Robert J. Will, Thomas P. Berra, Jr., Andrew Rothschild, Evan Z. Reid, Andrew Rothschild, Lewis Rice, LLC, Theodore J. Williams, Jr., Baker and Sterchi, LLC, Gerard T. Carmody, Kevin M. Cushing, Carmody MacDonald P.C., St. Louis, MO, James E. Crowe, III, Carlos H. Marin, James F. Bennett, Jeffrey R. Hoops, Terrence J. O'Toole, Edward L. Dowd, Jr., Dowd Bennett, LLP, Clayton, MO, Marc E. Kasowitz, R. Tali Epstein, David E. Ross, Kenneth R. David, Leonard A. Feiwus, Matthew A. Kraus, Sarmad M. Khojasteh, Kasowitz and Benson LLP, New York, NY, Constantine Z. Pamphilis, Kasowitz and Benson LLP, Houston, TX, Maria H. Ruiz, Kasowitz and Benson LLP, Miami, FL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This Order considers defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' first amended complaint and defendants' motion for determination of foreign law, along with certain other procedural motions.

In their motion to dismiss, defendants assert that dismissal is required for several reasons. They argue that principles of international comity require abstention, that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the non-Missouri defendants, and that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In their motion for determination of foreign law, defendants ask me to rule that the law of Peru applies to all aspects of this case. Plaintiffs respond by arguing for the application of Missouri law. Additionally pending are a motion to substitute parties to replace the defendant Trusts with the trustees and beneficiaries of each Trust, and a motion to consolidate three additional cases with these consolidated cases.

For the reasons that follow, I conclude that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the newly-added individual and Trust defendants, although the Court continues to have jurisdiction over previously-named defendants Ira Rennert and Renco. I conclude that plaintiffs' negligence-based claims survive the motion to dismiss, whether considered under Missouri, New York, or Peruvian law, but their claims of strict liability and civil conspiracy fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted. I conclude that the law of Missouri should apply to this case. Finally, I conclude that abstention based on international comity is not appropriate.

Plaintiffs are hundreds of Peruvian children (many of whom have attained majority in the many years these cases have been pending) who live near the La Oroya Complex, a metallurgical smelting and refining complex owned and operated by the defendant companies and their Peruvian subsidiary. The individual defendants are directors and/or officers of the defendant companies. The defendant Trusts were established by defendant Ira Rennert for the benefit of himself and his family and together own the defendant companies. Plaintiffs allege that defendants, acting from Missouri and New York, ran the operations of the La Oroya Complex in a manner that resulted in plaintiffs' exposure to lead and other toxic substances, which caused plaintiffs' serious medical and developmental injuries. They bring a variety of state-law tort claims against the defendants.

Operative Complaint

Plaintiffs originally brought their seven-count complaint in this action against four corporate defendants: Doe Run Resources Corporation ("Doe Run Resources"), DR Acquisition Corp. ("DR Acquisition"), The Renco Group, Inc. ("Renco"), and Renco Holdings, Inc.; and six individual defendants: Marvin K. Kaiser, Albert Bruce Neil, Jeffery L. Zelms, Theodore P. Fox III, Daniel L. Vornberg, and Ira L. Rennert. With leave of Court, and upon stipulation of the parties, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in February 2017, naming fifteen additional defendants, specifically, Doe Run Cayman Holdings LLC ("Cayman Holdings"); individual defendants Roger L. Fay, Marvin M. Koenig,1 John A. Siegel Jr., Dennis A. Sadlowski, John A. Binko, and Michael C. Ryan; and several Ira Rennert Trusts ("the Trusts"). Originally-named defendants Renco Holdings and Daniel L. Vornberg are not named in the amended complaint.

The amended complaint is brought in twelve counts:

• Count I – Negligence against Renco, Doe Run Resources, DR Acquisition, Cayman Holdings, the Trusts, Rennert, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count II – Negligence against Rennert, Kaiser, Neil, Zelms, Fox, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count III – Civil Conspiracy against Renco, Doe Run Resources, DR Acquisition, Cayman Holdings, the Trusts, Rennert, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count IV – Civil Conspiracy against Rennert, Kaiser, Neil, Zelms, Fox, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count V – Absolute or Strict Liability against Renco, Doe Run Resources, DR Acquisition, Cayman Holdings, the Trusts, Rennert, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count VI – Absolute or Strict Liability against Rennert, Kaiser, Neil, Zelms, Fox, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count VII – Contribution Based on Tortious Conduct of Entities Acting in Concert against all defendants;
• Count VIII – Direct Liability for Breach of Assumed Duties Pertaining to Foreseeable Harms against Doe Run Resources, Cayman Holdings, Kaiser, Neil, Zelms, and Fox;
• Count IX – Direct Liability for Breach of Assumed Duties Pertaining to Foreseeable Harms against Renco, DR Acquisition, Rennert, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count X – Negligent Performance of a Contract or Undertaking against Doe Run Resources, Cayman Holdings, Kaiser, Neil, Zelms, and Fox;
• Count XI – Negligent Performance of a Contract or Undertaking against Renco, DR Acquisition, Rennert, Fay, Koenig, Siegel, Sadlowski, Binko, and Ryan;
• Count XII – Direct Participation Liability against Renco, Rennert, and the Trusts.

All defendants seek to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety.

Motion to Dismiss
I. Personal Jurisdiction

As noted above, the amended complaint added as defendants eight trusts established by Ira Rennert for the benefit of himself and his family; six individuals who are described as officers and directors of various of the originally-named company defendants; and one additional company, Doe Run Cayman Holdings LLC. Originally-named defendants Ira Rennert and Renco challenge personal jurisdiction, as do all newly-added defendants other than Cayman Holdings, which is a Missouri limited liability company. I conclude that this Court cannot assert personal jurisdiction over the Trusts and the newly-added individual defendants, and so I will dismiss the case against them without prejudice. I conclude that Rennert and Renco are properly subject to personal jurisdiction in this district.

To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff is only required to make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction, that is, plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to support a "reasonable inference that the defendants can be subjected to jurisdiction within the state."

K-V Pharm. Co. v. J. Uriach & CIA, S.A. , 648 F.3d 588, 591-92 (8th Cir. 2011) ; Digi-Tel Holdings, Inc. v. Proteq Telecomms. (PTE), Ltd. , 89 F.3d 519, 522 (8th Cir. 1996). If the district court relies on pleadings and affidavits, the court must look at the facts in the light most favorable to the party invoking personal jurisdiction, and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of that party. Dakota Indus., Inc. v. Dakota Sportswear, Inc. , 946 F.2d 1384, 1387 (8th Cir. 1991) (citing Watlow Elec. Mfg. Co. v. Patch Rubber Co. , 838 F.2d 999, 1000 (8th Cir. 1988) ).

There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. Daimler AG v. Bauman , 571 U.S. 117, 127, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). General, or "all-purpose," jurisdiction exists over a corporation when the forum state is its place of incorporation or the location of its principal place of business. Id. at 121, 127, 134 S.Ct. 746 ; see also Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown , 564 U.S. 915, 919, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011). In an exceptional case, an additional state could have general jurisdiction if the corporation's activities in that state are "so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State." Daimler , 571 U.S. at 139 n.19, 134 S.Ct. 746.

Specific, or "conduct-linked," jurisdiction involves suits "arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum[.]" Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall , 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984) ; see also Daimler , 571 U.S. at 122, 134 S.Ct. 746. The defendant's activities within the forum state must give rise to, or relate to, the cause of action. Romak USA, Inc. v. Rich , 384 F.3d 979, 984 (8th Cir. 2004). For a Missouri court to exercise specific jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, two requirements must be met: 1) jurisdiction must be allowed by the Missouri long-arm statute; and 2) the reach of the long-arm statute must comport with due process. Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Papst St....

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