Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pajak v. Rohm & Haas Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 3, 2019

STEVEN PAJAK, Plaintiff,
v.
ROHM & HAAS COMPANY, ROHM & HAAS ELECTRONIC MATERIALS LLC, THE DOW CHEMICAL CO. and ALFA LAVAL, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of an industrial accident in which Steven Pajak (“Pajak” or “plaintiff”) suffered serious personal injuries. He brings claims for negligence against Rohm & Haas Company (“Rohm & Haas”), Rohm & Haas Electronic Materials LLC (“RHEM”) and The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow Chemical”) (collectively “the Dow defendants”) as the entities that owned or maintained the container and the chemical manufacturing facility where the accident occurred.[1] He also asserts claims for 1) negligence, 2) breach of express and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness and 3) product liability against Alfa Laval, Inc. (“Alfa Laval”) which allegedly designed, manufactured, marketed and/or distributed the purportedly defective container involved in the explosion that injured plaintiff.

         Pajak alleges that the Dow defendants failed 1) to maintain in a reasonably safe condition the facility and the container and 2) to adopt a reasonably safe method or provide adequate training to plaintiff for the “trimethylaluminum reclamation process” in which he was engaged when injured. He also submits that Alfa Laval negligently designed, manufactured, tested and/or placed into the channels of commerce a defective and/or inherently dangerous container which caused the explosion and his resulting injuries.

         Before this Court are 1) Alfa Laval's motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), 2) RHEM's motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) and to award attorneys' fees and costs incurred in connection with its motion and 3) the motion of Rohm & Haas and Dow Chemical for judgment on the pleadings as to Counts I and III of the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).

         I. Background

         A. The Parties

         Pajak is a resident of Billerica, Massachusetts. He was employed at a chemical manufacturing facility owned, operated and/or maintained by the Dow defendants which is located in North Andover, Massachusetts (“the Facility”), although it is unclear exactly which of the three Dow defendants was his direct employer.

         Rohm & Haas is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. It manufactures specialty chemicals for use in building and construction, electronic devices, packaging and household and personal care products. Dow Chemical is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Midland, Michigan. It is one of the largest American, multi-national, chemical corporations and it manufactures plastics, chemicals and agricultural products. RHEM is a limited liability company that manufactures and distributes specialty chemicals and materials to the electronic and opto-electronic industries. RHEM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rohm & Haas which, in turn, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Dow Chemical is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, Inc. which is a publicly held company (and not a named defendant). The three defendants together allegedly owned, operated and maintained the Facility.

         Alfa Laval is a New Jersey corporation with a principal place of business in Richmond, Virginia. It manufactures and supplies products used to heat, cool, separate and transport various products, such as water, oil, chemicals, beverages and foodstuffs. Alfa Laval allegedly designed, manufactured and/or distributed the allegedly defective container that Pajak encountered at the Facility.

         B. The Accident

         In or about January, 2016, Pajak was working at the Facility when oxygen came into contact with trimethylaluminum contained in the allegedly defective container, resulting in an explosion and fire. Plaintiff sustained serious personal injuries as a result of the explosion, including serious burns to his face and hands and loss of vision in his left eye.

         Plaintiff sought and obtained compensation from RHEM under the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Act (“the MWCA” or “the Act”), M.G.L. c. 152. In August, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (“the DIA”) approved his lump sum settlement agreement with RHEM and its workers' compensation insurer pursuant to § 48 of the MWCA. He was paid $253, 000 as a result of that settlement. Moreover, in the form submitted to the DIA for approval of the settlement, Pajak explicitly acknowledged that RHEM was his employer and that the payment he received was in redemption of the liability owed to him by RHEM under the MWCA.

         C. Procedural History

         In January, 2019, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Essex County. In February, a notice of removal was filed by Alfa Laval (to which the Dow defendants consented), invoking this Court's federal diversity jurisdiction.

         Shortly thereafter, Alfa Laval filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. It submits that 1) plaintiff has not alleged any facts to establish general personal jurisdiction over it in Massachusetts nor 2) has he sufficiently identified the allegedly defective product to determine whether Alfa Laval purposefully directed that product into Massachusetts or whether it ended up in the forum fortuitously. Alfa Laval also contends that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for negligence, breach of warranty or product liability because he has not sufficiently identified the product at issue. Plaintiff responds that he has reason to believe (based on communications with the Dow defendants) that Alfa Laval manufactured and/or supplied the allegedly defective product and asserts that he is entitled to some jurisdictional discovery in order to identify the specific product and the company that manufactured and/or supplied it to the Dow defendants.

         RHEM also filed a motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. It also requested an award of attorneys' fees and costs incurred in connection with that motion. It maintains that §§ 23, 24 and 48 of the MWCA precludes Pajak from seeking recovery from RHEM for his injuries because he has already been compensated pursuant to the lump sum settlement agreement with RHEM. RHEM claims that plaintiff's refusal to dismiss his claim against it is unreasonable and vexatious and thus it should also be awarded attorneys' fees and costs incurred in connection with that motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.

         Plaintiff responds that he currently lacks sufficient information to determine which of the three Dow defendants was his employer at the time of the accident. He volunteers to dismiss the appropriate party upon receiving the relevant information and counters that he is the party entitled to attorneys' fees and costs in connection with RHEM's motion because it is the failure of the Dow defendants to provide his employment file that has created this jurisdictional issue.

         In April, 2019, Rohm & Haas and Dow Chemical filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Counts I and III of the complaint. They assert that plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish either 1) how Rohm & Haas or Dow Chemical breached their alleged duty of care to Pajak or 2) how that alleged breach of duty caused his injuries. Plaintiff rejoins that he is not required to plead detailed and specific facts at this stage and that he has alleged facts sufficient to establish the elements of both breach of duty and causation. He also requests, in the alternative, to be allowed to file an amended complaint.

         II. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and for Failure to State a Claim

         A. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction, plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the Court has authority to exercise jurisdiction over defendants. See Mass. Sch. of Law at Andover, Inc. v. ABA, 142 F.3d 26, 33-34 (1st Cir. 1998). The Court must take facts alleged by plaintiff as true and construe disputed facts favorably towards plaintiff. See Ticketmaster-New York, Inc. v. Alioto, 26 F.3d 201, 203 (1st Cir. 1994).

         In a diversity suit, this Court acts as “the functional equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.” See Astro-Med, Inc. v. Nihon Kohden America, Inc., 591 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2009). As such, this Court must determine whether 1) jurisdiction is permitted by the Massachusetts long-arm statute and 2) the exercise of jurisdiction coheres with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Id. Alfa Laval does not contend that plaintiff has failed to satisfy the Massachusetts long-arm statute nor does plaintiff assert that Alfa Laval is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts and thus this Court will focus on the requirements of specific personal jurisdiction.

         This Court may exercise specific personal jurisdiction when defendants have certain “minimum contacts” with Massachusetts such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice”. Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement,326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks omitted). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.