A door supplier that’s being sued for allegedly exposing a man to harmful asbestos sought to dismiss the case, claiming it never conducted business in the state of New York in the 1960s, where and when the product was sold. The Supreme Court of New York, New York County, denied T.M. Cobb’s motion, declaring that the Riverside, Calif.-based door supplier failed to prove its case. The court simultaneously shot down T.M. Cobb’s suggestion that it did not have jurisdiction.

Plaintiff Holly Redell-Witte, serving as administrator for the estate of James Witte, alleges that plaintiff-decedent James Witte was exposed to asbestos through products sold by T.M. Cobb in New York. The company sought to dismiss the complaint against it on the basis that it has no connections to the state of New York, while suggesting the Court has no personal jurisdiction over the case.

Based on the testimony of Jeffrey Cobb, the company alleged that, “T.M. Cobb did not sell its products in New York and never conducted business in New York.” In prior testimony, James Witte recalled the company by name several times, in connection with his worksite in the state.

The Court determined that the defendant failed to prove it did not sell or distribute doors in the state, while also declaring that “proof of one transaction in New York is sufficient to invoke jurisdiction, even though the defendant never enters New York, so long as the defendant’s activities here were purposeful and there is a substantial relationship between the transaction and the claim asserted.” At the same time, the plaintiff presented information “sufficient to establish T.M. Cobb’s business in New York in the 1960s,” the Court declared.

In its argument for dismissal, the defendant relied heavily on the testimony of Jeffrey Cobb, who failed to exhibit personal knowledge of the company’s sales and distribution during the applicable time period. According to court documents, Cobb also confirmed that the company failed to retain any sales records from the 1960s, when the purchase was made, nor does it have a policy for document retention. Cobb was also unaware of which states the company’s customers sold in, including mostly dealers and distributors. Without such information, T.M. Cobb has failed to prove that it did not sell doors in the state of New York within the applicable time period, the court declared.

In its denial, the court cites New York Civil Practice Law and Rules 302 (2012), which says specific jurisdiction may be exercised over a non-resident who “(1) transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state; or (2) commits a tortious act within the state…; or (3) commits a tortious act without the state causing injury to person…within the state…if he (i) regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in the state, or (ii) expects or should reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state and derives substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce; or (4) owns, uses or possesses real property situated within the state.”

James Witte testified unequivocally to encountering T.M. Cobb’s doors in New York City, court documents say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *