At Issue Is the Test for Where Corporate Defendants Can Be Sued
CHICAGO – (March 9, 2020) – DRI–The Voice of the Defense Bar, through its Center for Law and Public Policy, has filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting petitioner Ford Motor Company in the consolidated cases of Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, No. 19-368, and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer, No. 19-369.
In these cases, plaintiffs sued Ford Motor Company for product liability in the states where they were injured by allegedly defective Ford vehicles. Ford moved to dismiss the cases on personal jurisdiction grounds, contending that the courts in question lacked jurisdiction over them for these lawsuits because Ford had neither manufactured not sold those particular vehicles in those states. The Montana and Mississippi Supreme Courts rejected Ford’s arguments, distinguished it from prior U.S. Supreme Court precedents including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), and concluded that they had jurisdiction over Ford for these lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court granted Ford’s petitions for certiorari, consolidated the cases, and set oral argument for April 27, 2020.
DRI’s amicus brief argues that state courts are prohibited from exercising specific personal jurisdiction over defendants like Ford unless there is a direct connection between the facts of the case and the jurisdiction in which the defendant is sued. And more particularly, when there is a direct connection between the defendant’s contacts with the jurisdiction and the case at issue.
DRI’s brief provides an analysis of the Court’s historical precedents on the issue of specific personal jurisdiction (including information drawn from Justice Harry A. Blackmun’s papers on file with The Library of Congress). It articulates why due process requires a focus on fairness to defendants when determining whether personal jurisdiction exists. It also explains that there is a nationwide network of product liability lawyers available to plaintiffs which minimizes any inconvenience to those who must file their lawsuits in other states.
A copy of DRI’s amicus brief can be found here.
Amicus brief authors James C. Martin and Lisa M. Baird of Reed Smith LLP are available for interview or expert comment through the contact information above. Ms. Baird is chair of DRI’s Appellate Advocacy Committee and a member of the DRI Amicus Committee.