Court Assesses Jurisdiction Over a Corporate Defendant Under the Massachusetts Long Arm Statute

In many instances in which a person is harmed by a corporation, the person will be a citizen of one state, while the corporation will be recognized as a citizen of another state. Thus, in many cases in which a plaintiff seeks damages from a corporation, the case will either be filed in or removed to federal court. Simply because a case is filed in or removed to a federal court does not mean that the court can properly exercise jurisdiction over a matter, however. This was discussed in a recent Massachusetts case in which the District Court assessed whether it had sufficient grounds to exercise jurisdiction over the corporate defendant under the Massachusetts long-arm statute. If you sustained harm due to corporate negligence, it is prudent to meet with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what compensation you may be able to recover.

Factual Background

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent used the defendant’s cleaners and solvents for automobile parts throughout the duration of his career as a mechanic in Florida. He subsequently was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome and leukemia, which he ultimately died from. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant in Massachusetts state court, alleging the defendant knowingly sold products that contained carcinogens, and that the decedent’s exposure to those products ultimately resulted in his death. The defendant removed the case to the District Court and then filed a motion to dismiss. On review, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Jurisdiction Under the Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute

For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, a plaintiff must first satisfy the Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute (the Statute). Under the Statute, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a company that has its principal place of business in Massachusetts or causes a tortious injury in Massachusetts, either directly or through an agent. A plaintiff alleging jurisdiction based on a tortious injury must demonstrate that a tortious act occurred in Massachusetts. A court evaluating where the harm occurred will assess whether the defendant’s contact’s within the state should be considered the first event in a chain of events that led to the plaintiff’s harm.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff had not alleged that the defendant’s contacts with Massachusetts set into motion the chain of events that caused the decedent’s harm, or that any of the alleged harm occurred in Massachusetts. Specifically, she did not allege that either she or the decedent were injured in Massachusetts or ever visited Massachusetts. As such, the court found that she failed to demonstrate that the court had jurisdiction under the Long Arm Statute based on any tortious conduct. The court ultimately stated it could not determine the defendant’s principal place of business and permitted discovery on that issue.

Meet with a Seasoned Personal Injury Attorney

If you sustained damages due to the negligent acts of a corporation, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned attorney to discuss your rights. The dedicated Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan possess the knowledge and skills to assist you in seeking a just outcome, and we will aggressively pursue any damages you may be owed. You can reach us at 508-822-6600  or through the form online to set up a consultation.