Florida not the correct jurisdiction for Union Carbide asbestos lawsuit, appeals court rules

By Takesha Thomas | Aug 29, 2018

Florida won't hear asbestos lawsuit against Union Carbide.  

ATLANTA –– The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a Florida woman's asbestos lawsuit against Union Carbide Corporation.

In the Aug. 23 ruling, the unanimous three-judge panel affirmed the lower court lacks jurisdiction in the case, because Union Carbide has no offices or operations in Florida. 

"The [plaintiffs] cannot show that their claims arise out of Union Carbide’s contacts with Florida," Judge Jill Pryor wrote in the opinion. "Nor is Union Carbide subject to general  jurisdiction because there is no evidence that Union Carbide is at home in Florida."

James and Sandra Waite filed the lawsuit against Union Carbide and nine other companies in 2015, alleging the defendants manufactured and sold products containing asbestos. Waite believed he was exposed to asbestos while renovating apartments in Massachusetts during the 1960s. 

The Waites moved to Florida in 1978. James was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a lung cancer connected to asbestos exposure, in 2015. He later died.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida found it did not have jurisdiction over the case. Attorneys for Union Carbide argued that the company was based in New  York and maintained its principal place of business in Texas. Although Union Carbide did operate a plant in South Florida during the 1970s, the Waites could not prove the asbestos he may have been exposed to originated from that plant.

"But the contacts upon which the Waites rely to establish specific jurisdiction–Union Carbide's discussion about holding a seminar in Florida, its plant in Brevard County, and its sales in Florida–have nothing to do with the torts Union Carbide allegedly committed," Pryor wrote in the 29-page ruling. "The Waites do not allege, for example, that the asbestos to which Mr. Waite was exposed in Massachusetts was designed at the Brevard County plant."

Without any connection to the state, the appeals court found, the lawsuit cannot continue in the district court. 

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Miami Florida Division Union Carbide Corporation

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