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J.Y.C.C. v. Doe Run Resources Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 27, 2019

J.Y.C.C., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DOE RUN RESOURCES, CORP., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs in this matter are more than sixteen hundred Peruvian children who live near Defendants' lead smelter in La Oroya, Peru.[1] Plaintiffs allege that they were injured after being exposed to toxic lead emissions from the smelter. The corporate defendants are United States companies, who through their Peruvian subsidiary, owned and operated the lead smelting and refining complex. The individual defendants in this matter are the directors and/or officers of the defendant companies.

         Plaintiffs filed thirty-three cases in Missouri state court asserting their personal injury claims against Defendants. Each case contained approximately ninety plaintiffs. Defendants removed these cases to this Court where seventeen cases[2] were consolidated in the present case and sixteen cases await consolidation.[3]

         Three of the defendants, The Renco Group, Renco Holdings, Inc., and Ira Rennert, have filed a motion to dismiss in all these cases for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because the Court has personal jurisdiction over these defendants, I will deny their motion.

         Background

         The relationship between these three defendants and the other defendants in this case is as follows. The Renco Group, Inc. is the parent company of Renco Holdings, Inc. They are both New York corporations with their principal places of business in New York. (Hereinafter these entities shall be referred to collectively, as the parties have done, as “Renco.”) Ira Rennert is a resident of New York City. Rennert owns Renco and serves as Renco's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Rennert is also the Chairman of Defendant The Doe Run Resources Corp.

         The Renco Group, Inc. owns Defendant DR Acquisition Corp., a Missouri corporation with its principal place of business in Missouri. DR Acquisition, in turn, owns Defendant The Doe Run Resources Corp., a New York corporation with its principal place of business in St. Louis, Missouri. The Doe Run Resources Corp. wholly owns Doe Run Cayman, Ltd., a Cayman Island corporation which, in turn, owns Doe Run Peru.[4] The remaining individual defendants in this matter, Marvin K. Kaiser, Theodore P. Fox, III, Jerry Pyatt, Jeffery L. Zelms are current or former officers of The Doe Run Resources Corp.[5]

         Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that Renco and Rennert exerted “complete control, not merely stock control, but complete domination of the finances, policies, and business practices of Doe Run Peru. The control is so complete that the subsidiary has never had a separate mind, will, or existence of its own.” [Compl. at ¶ 29 and ¶ 65] Plaintiffs allege that the corporate defendants made decisions in Missouri and New York regarding all facets of the operation of the La Oroya Complex. [Compl. at ¶ 34] Plaintiffs' allege that those decisions led the La Oroya Complex to operate in a way that “negligently, carelessly, and recklessly generated, handled, stored, released, disposed of, and failed to control and contain … the release of toxic metals, gases, and other toxic substances” into the environment around the Complex. [Compl. at ¶ 35] The result was a toxic contamination of the area which led to Plaintiffs' injuries.

         Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Defendant Rennert is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Renco. Plaintiffs allege that Rennert is also the Chairman and an officer of Defendant The Doe Run Resources Corp. Plaintiffs allege that Rennert is the controlling owner of all the corporate defendants in this matter. [Compl. at ¶¶ 10 and 59] Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, including Rennert, during the course of their ownership, operation, management, or control of operations of the La Oroya Complex, made decisions in Missouri and New York regarding the operations of the Complex. Plaintiffs allege that those decisions were “negligent, careless or reckless and resulted in the release of metals and other toxic and harmful substances, including lead, arsenic, cadmium, and sulfur dioxide, into the air and water and onto the properties on which the minor plaintiffs reside, use or visit” which led to their injuries. [Compl. at ¶ 24] Plaintiffs allege that Rennert, as an officer of Renco and The Doe Run Resources Corp., is individually liable to Plaintiffs because he had actual knowledge of The Doe Run Resources Corp.'s “tortious wrongful conduct and participated in it.” [Compl. at ¶ 59] Plaintiffs allege that Rennert's “responsibilities, actions and omissions included but were not limited to approval of expenditures for pollution control measures and expenditures for the remediation of properties.” Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that Rennert had knowledge of the toxic emissions, had knowledge of technologies owned by The Doe Run Resources Company that were available to remediate the contaminated soil that were not used, and “participated and approved budgets which delayed implementation of proper pollution control measures and delayed remediation” efforts. [Compl. at ¶ 61] Renco and Rennert have moved to dismiss the claims against them based on a lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Legal Standard

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, I must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and view them in light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. at 555.

         Discussion

         The present case is the lead case. It was removed from Missouri state court to this Court on November 13, 2015. An additional sixteen cases were removed to this Court through March 31, 2017. These cases were consolidated with this lead case. Counsel for Defendants Renco and Rennert entered their appearance in all these cases. The Renco Group removed all of the cases and Renco Holdings and Rennert joined in the removal. Renco and Rennert filed answers in almost all of these cases.[6] Renco and Rennert subsequently removed an additional sixteen cases to this Court in which they did not file an answer. Instead of filing an answer, they filed a motion to dismiss based on a lack of personal jurisdiction in fourteen of these cases. These sixteen cases will be consolidated with this lead case after the entry of this order.

         Despite litigating this matter since November 15, 2015, Renco and Rennert waited until August 17, 2017, to file a motion to dismiss in the initial seventeen removed cases based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The motion was filed in the wake of two decisions the United States Supreme Court released in May and June of 2017, BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549 (2017)[7] and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San ...


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