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BNSF Railway Co. v. Superior Court (Vicki L. Kralovetz)

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

March 27, 2015

BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent VICKI L. KRALOVETZ, Individually and as Executor, etc., et al., Real Parties in Interest.

[REVIEW GRANTED BY CAL. SUPREME COURT]

ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate. Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC552015 Emilie H. Elias, Judge.

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COUNSEL

Sims Law Firm, Selim Mounedji and Brock Christensen for Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

The Lanier Law Firm, Mark Douglas Bratt, Alexandra Shef, Stephanie M. Taylor; The Arkin Law Firm and Sharon J. Arkin, for Real Parties in Interest.

OPINION

COLLINS, J.

Petitioner BNSF Railway Company seeks a writ of mandate directing respondent trial court to vacate its order denying petitioner’s motion to quash service of process for lack of general personal jurisdiction. Real parties in interest Vicki L. Kralovetz, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of the Estate of Peter J. Kralovetz, Aaron Kralovetz, and Sarah Kralovetz (collectively “real parties in interest) oppose issuance of the writ and request that we take judicial notice of several documents that in their view support their position. We deny the request for judicial notice, conclude that general jurisdiction is lacking here, and grant the petition for writ of mandate.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Real parties in interest filed a wrongful death action against petitioner’s predecessor in interest and numerous other defendants in Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Kralovetz v. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. (Super. Ct. L.A. County, No. BC552015).) Real parties in interest allege that decedent Peter J. Kralovetz developed and died fro malignant pleural mesothelioma as a result of exposure to defendants’ “asbestos, asbestos-containing products and/or products designed to be used in association with asbestos products.” The exposure attributed to petitioner allegedly occurred in Wichita, Kansas, where decedent once worked at a dismantling facility and roundhouse owned by petitioner’s predecessor.

Petitioner moved to quash service of the summons for lack of personal jurisdiction. (See Code Civ. Proc., § 418.10, subd. (a)(1).) Petitioner argued

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the trial court lacked specific personal jurisdiction over it because conduct alleged against it did not arise from petitioner’s in-state activities. Petitioner also argued the trial court lacked general personal jurisdiction because it is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas and accordingly is not “essentially at home” in California (citing Daimler AG v. Bauman (2014) 571 U.S. __, __ [187 L.Ed.2d 624, 134 S.Ct. 746, 751] (Daimler) and Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown (2011) 564 U.S. ___, ___ [180 L.Ed.2d 796, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2854 (Goodyear) among other authority.)

In support of its motion, petitioner provided a declaration from James T. Obermiller, its custodian of records and director of corporate support and compliance. According to this declaration, petitioner is a railroad that provides freight transportation over 23, 319 miles of railroad track spanning 28 states and two Canadian provinces. Petitioner is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Fort Worth, Texas. Petitioner’s principal officers and managerial departments are housed in Texas, as is its central operations center for train dispatching and network operations monitoring. Petitioner’s highest concentrations of employees (approximately 20 percent) and railroad track (approximately 12 percent) also are in Texas. Petitioner generates the most revenue from its operations in Texas. California ...


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