By Natalie Holden on March 14, 2018
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently denied an asbestos plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the court’s previous grant of defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Everett v. Aurora Pump Co., et al., 2017 WL 2778091 (Jan. 11, 2018). In June 2017, the District Court granted several defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants had moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction arguing that the court lacked both specific and general jurisdiction over the defendants. The defendants further argued that having a registered agent in the state was insufficient for personal jurisdiction. The District Court agreed and granted the dismissal. In July 2017, Plaintiffs moved to reconsider those dismissals under Rule 59, arguing that “an intervening change in the law since the parties briefed personal jurisdiction issues.”
Plaintiffs argued that the Supreme Court decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., ___ U.S. ____, 137 S.Ct 1773 (2017) presented new law that warranted the Court to reconsider several of the defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. They argued that Bristol-Myers noted that its holding might not apply to cases brought in federal court and thus governed by the Fifth Amendment’s due process limitations. Defendants and the Court both noted that this was mere dicta and thus not binding. The Court held that while Rule 59(e) permits a court to alter a judgment it “may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” The Court denied Plaintiff’s motion, noting first that the decision had been rendered before the Court’s Opinion and thus did not qualify as intervening law, but also noting that Bristol-Myers does not mandate reconsideration because it was based on “settled principles of personal jurisdiction.” The Court noted the Bristol-Myers reiterated that there must be a connection between the forum state and the specific claims at issue in the case.
Interestingly, the Bristol-Myers case actually limited the scope of personal jurisdiction and created a more difficult hurdle for plaintiffs to overcome. However, the Everett Court held that there was no change in the law and that the Opinion, Memorandum, and Order should not be altered or amended under rule 59(e).