Recently in Connecticut, Judge Bellis, the presiding asbestos docket judge in Bridgeport, issued a decision involving a defendant’s challenge to the court’s personal jurisdiction. Rice v. Am. Talc Co., 2017 Conn. Super. LEXIS 4433 (Conn. Super. 2017). In its motion to dismiss, the defendant, Milwhite, argued that the asbestos-related injuries of the plaintiff’s decedent could not arise out of any transactions by the defendant in Connecticut, because the defendant did not acquire the right to mine the allegedly asbestos-containing talc until three years after the plaintiff’s decedent stopped working at the American Standard plant in Connecticut. The defendant further argued that it never had any offices, employees, or sales agents in the state of Connecticut at any time; it had not made sales to any company in the state since the 1970s, and the few sales that the defendant made in Connecticut comprised less than one-tenth of one percent of its sales in any given year. In opposition, the plaintiff argued that the defendant sought out the Connecticut market and shipped products directly to Connecticut consumers.

After considering these arguments, the court concluded that if a reasonable expectation exists that a foreign corporation’s goods will be used or consumed in the state of Connecticut, then that corporation can expect to be sued in Connecticut. The plaintiff’s evidence showed that the defendant knew a shipment destination was Connecticut when it was selling its product to the distributor, and that it also knew the distributor’s customers included Connecticut consumers.

The court also analyzed the due process requirements of the fourteenth amendment and reasoned that based on the evidence submitted by the plaintiff, the defendant “purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities” in Connecticut. As such, the court concluded, the defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with Connecticut to allow this court to exercise personal jurisdiction over it and denied Milwhite’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Finally, from an equitable standpoint, the court further concluded it was fair to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant in this case because: (1) it involved the plaintiff’s single injury, mesothelioma, and (2) for the plaintiff to maintain two or more actions against different parties and in multiple jurisdictions was inefficient and imposed on the plaintiff a much greater burden than the defendant faced by defending itself in Connecticut.

The Rice decision may cause defendants to think twice before challenging personal jurisdiction in Connecticut cases. This is particularly true for out-of-state defendants who have reasonable expectations that their products were used in Connecticut, irrespective of how minimal their sales may have been in the state. Also, Judge Bellis’ stance on encouraging judicial economy and alleviating undue burden on plaintiffs is discouraging from a defense standpoint.