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Pajak v. Rohm & Haas Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 9, 2019

Steven Pajak, Plaintiff,
v.
Rohm & Haas Company et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER GORTON, J.

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of an industrial accident in which Steven Pajak (“Mr. Pajak” or “plaintiff”) suffered serious personal injuries. He brings claims for negligence against Rohm & Haas Company (“Rohm & Haas”) and The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow Chemical”) (collectively “the Dow defendants”) as the entities that owned and maintained both the allegedly defective container which caused the accident and the chemical manufacturing facility where the accident occurred.

         Mr. Pajak alleges that the Dow defendants improperly designed, maintained, inspected and developed safety procedures and failed to protect against various hazards associated with the “trimethylaluminum reclamation process” in which he was engaged when injured.

         Before this Court is the motion of Rohm & Haas and Dow Chemical to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because they submit that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

         I. Background

         A. The Parties

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

         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. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical. 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. Dow Chemical is, in turn, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, Inc. which is a publicly held company (and not a named defendant). The defendants together allegedly own, operate and maintain the Facility.

         B. The Accident

         In or about January, 2016, Mr. 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 Rohm and Haas Electronic Materials LLC (“RHEM”), a subsidiary of Defendant Rohm and Haas, under the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Act (“the MWCA”), 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. In the form submitted to the DIA for approval of the settlement, Mr. 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 against the Dow Defendants, REHM and Alfa Laval, Inc. (a corporation which had allegedly designed, manufactured, marketed and/or distributed the purportedly defective container). In February, a notice of removal was filed by Alfa Laval (to which the other defendants consented), invoking this Court's federal diversity jurisdiction. Subsequently, all defendants filed motions to dismiss on various grounds. In July, 2019, this Court allowed 1) Alfa Laval's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, 2) REHM's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim and 3) the motion of Rohm & Haas and Dow Chemical for judgment on the pleadings. All claims were dismissed without prejudice and the Court granted the plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint.

         On July 16, 2019, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against only the Dow defendants, which promptly moved to dismiss. The Dow defendants submit that the statute of limitations on Mr. Pajak's claims expired between the time this Court dismissed his claim without prejudice and the time he filled his amended complaint. Mr. Pajak responds that his claim is not barred because it relates back ...


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