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In re Hoosick Falls PFOA Cases

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 2, 2020

IN RE HOOSICK FALLS PFOA CASES.

         This Memorandum-Decision and Order pertains to: Reece, No. 1:19-CV-219; Bamrick, No. 1:19-CV-225; Driscoll, No. 1:19-CV-231; Gates, No. 1:19-CV-221; Slowey, No. 1:19- CV-216; Webber, No. 1:19-CV-220; Wyman, No. 1:19-CV-215.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action concerns allegations of tortious acts committed by: (1) operators of facilities that discharged or released perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) into the Village of Hoosick Falls's (“Hoosick Falls” or the “Village”) water supply; and (2) several suppliers of those PFOAs. The plaintiffs-Kathleen Reece, Diane Bamrick, Mark Driscoll, Crystal Gates, Ryan Slowey, Ian Webber, and Lori Wyman (collectively, “Individual Plaintiffs”)-assert claims in their individual capacities (and several on behalf of an estate) against these facility operators and PFOA suppliers under New York State law for negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, and strict products liability. Some of the Individual Plaintiffs also assert claims for loss of consortium and wrongful death.[1]

         Individual Plaintiffs each bring claims against Saint-Gobain Corporation (“Saint-Gobain”) and its subsidiary, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation (“SGPP”). Compl. Saint-Gobain moves to dismiss the Individual Plaintiffs' cases pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.[2] Individual Plaintiffs oppose the Motions to Dismiss, [3] and Saint-Gobain has filed replies.[4]

         For the following reasons, the Court denies all of the Motions to Dismiss and grants Individual Plaintiffs' requests to conduct jurisdictional discovery.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The relevant allegations and assertions of fact appear to be as follows:

         A. Overview of Saint-Gobain and SGPP

         Saint-Gobain is incorporated and has its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 20. SGPP, of which Saint-Gobain is the “parent” company, is incorporated in California and has its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Id. ¶¶ 2, 18. “SGPP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics, Inc., which is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain Delaware Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Defendant Saint-Gobain.” Id. ¶ 19. And SGPP “is present in 16 countries in North American, Europe and Asia, and operates 45 manufacturing sites.” Id. ¶ 21.

         B. Overlap Between Saint-Gobain and SGPP

         Saint-Gobain “was actively involved in the management of, and decision-making by, SGPP, including issues relating to environmental health and safety” and the “disposal of hazardous or toxic substances and wastes by SGPP.” Id. ¶¶ 2, 3. Furthermore, Saint-Gobain has provided SGPP with “[v]arious types of services, for example, tax, treasury, risk management, human resources, [and] environmental health and safety” over a seventeen-year period. Resps., Ex. S at 81-82. “SGPP remains the owner and operator of the Hoosick Facilities, with significant input from Saint-Gobain regarding operations.” Compl. ¶ 80.

         From January 2017 to January 2019, Thomas Kinisky was the CEO of both Saint-Gobain and SGPP. Resps., Exs. J; O; H. As CEO of both companies, Kinisky interacted with the Mayor of Hoosick Falls regarding the PFOA contamination of the Village's drinking supply. Id., Exs. M; Q. And “[i]n response to a [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] questionnaire in 2016, SGPP admitted to disposal of PFOA containing wastes at the Hoosick Facilities in documents attested to or confirmed by Edward Canning, an employee of SGPP and/or Saint-Gobain.” Compl. ¶ 93.

         Another SGPP employee, Phil Guy, previously testified that Saint-Gobain and SGPP employees were “all part of the - ultimately part of the French corporation overall.” Resps., Ex. R at 10.

         C. Other Facts Purportedly Supporting Jurisdiction Over Saint-Gobain

         Individual Plaintiffs also allege Saint-Gobain is “a past owner and operator of the Hoosick Facilities.” Compl. ¶ 5. As an owner of the Hoosick Facilities, “Saint-Gobain knew, or should have known, that PFOA-containing materials had been used in the Hoosick Facilities and thereby posed a risk to those exposed to PFOA contamination originating from the Hoosick Facilities during the time of [its] ownership.” Id. ¶ 110.

         Additionally, at least one manufacturer of PFOA-containing materials, E. I. DuPont De Nemours and Company, sold such materials “to Saint-Gobain . . . that were used at the [Village of] Hoosick [Falls] facilities, ” which in turn “discharged, released or otherwise disposed of” PFOA into the Village's drinking supply. Id. ¶¶ 8, 30.

         Finally, “on December 30, 2014, SGPP filed a Toxic Substances Control Act (‘TSCA') Section 8(e) Notice with EPA. In that Notice, SGPP and Saint-Gobain reported the presence of PFOA in the Village water supply and the nexus of that contamination to the Hoosick Facilities.” Id. ¶ 116. The Notice listed Lauren Alterman-Saint-Gobain's Vice President of Environmental, Health and Safety-as the point of contact. Resps., Exs. K; L.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “When a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants.” Micro Fines Recycling Owego, LLC v. Ferrex Eng'g, Ltd., No. 17-CV-1315, 2019 WL 1762889, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 22, 2019) (Kahn, J.) (citing Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 566 (2d Cir. 1996)). The court is not limited to considering “the four corners of the complaint.” Phillips v. Reed Grp., Ltd., 955 F.Supp.2d 201, 225 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). “[T]he Court may also rely on submitted affidavits and other supporting materials submitted in relation to the motion.” Id.

         A plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Grand River Enters. Six Nations, Ltd. v. Pryor, 425 F.3d 158, 165 (2d Cir. 2005). “A prima facie showing of jurisdiction ‘does not mean that plaintiff must show only some evidence that defendant is subject to jurisdiction; it means that plaintiff must plead facts which, if true, are sufficient in themselves to establish jurisdiction.'” Tamam v. Fransabank Sal, 677 F.Supp.2d 720, 725 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Bellepointe, Inc. v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., 975 F.Supp. 562, 564-65 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)). Pleadings that assert only “conclusory non-fact-specific jurisdictional allegations” or state a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” do not meet this burden. Jazini v. Nissan Motor Co., 148 F.3d 181, 185 (2d Cir. 1998). While “the pleadings and affidavits are to be construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and all doubts are to be resolved in Plaintiff's favor, ” Minholz v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 227 F.Supp.3d 249, 255 ...


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