Think Global- Sue ’em Local

Posted on March 23, 2010 in Sub-Prime Mortgages in Arizona

As it has been said in ALM (American Lawyer Media), “In a global economy, price and convenience are valued above all else.” Global consumers demand produce out of season, buy sophisticated appliances made with cheap labor and build homes with materials shipped from abroad. And yet when these products prove to be defective, they expect to be able to sue the manufacturer at the local courthouse, regardless of where it resides. After all, the product reached them — so they should be able to sue in their home court, right?

We’ve come a long way from Penoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1878), when a defendant’s physical presence in the forum state was required to exercise jurisdiction over him. Various U.S. Supreme Court decisions have expanded the notion of personal jurisdiction, simultaneously muddying the water as to precisely what constitutional analysis is required.

Take, for example, Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of Calif., 480 U.S. 102 (1986). There, the separate plurality opinions of justices Sandra Day O’Connor and William Brennan both approved of some form of the “stream of commerce” theory of jurisdiction but disagreed on the exact formulation of the test to be applied. Although lower courts subsequently used some form of “stream of commerce” analysis after Asahi, they seldom used it as a stand-alone test. Most have always added to it some form of “minimum contacts,” “purposeful availment” or other analysis to establish that the defendant somehow intended or expected to benefit from the jurisdiction. This traditionally has been seen as required by the due process clause.

In February, the New Jersey Supreme Court substantially expanded the scope of personal jurisdiction over foreign manufacturers in products liability cases by abandoning any form of “purposeful availment” or “minimum contacts” analysis, opting instead to rest exclusively on the “stream of commerce” theory. Nicastro v. McIntyre, 2010 N.J. Lexis 19 (N.J. Feb. 2, 2010). Nicastro was a classic products liability case. The defendant was a British manufacturer of metal presses used to recycle metal. The plaintiff was the operator of the machine, which severed four of his fingers. He sued the manufacturer for failure to warn and design defect, arguing that the machine lacked a specific safety guard that would have prevented the accident.

If you need help looking over your case, call Bill Miller in Scottsdale at 602.319.6899. He has been suing Fortune 500 companies for 22 years!

William A. Miller, PLLC, is an Arizona law firm dedicated to this simple philosophy: In every case we handle, we strive to be the best! To demand of ourselves the highest standard of diligence and follow through. To turn over every stone. To return client calls immediately and not hide behind “lawyer speak” when confronted with tough issues. Our mandate is to treat our clients with the highest level of respect, integrity and empathy – to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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