U.S. Supreme Court Case Could Affect Maine Products Liability Cases

In the United States, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution’s Due Process Clause limits a state court’s ability to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant. Whether a particular state, such as Maine, has the authority to have jurisdiction over a defendant to hear a case involving them depends on whether the defendant has established sufficient “contacts” with the state where the suit takes place.

Whether the state is equipped to hear the case frequently also turns on whether hearing the claim would be “reasonable” and whether it would interfere with “fair play and substantial justice.” Thus, jurisdiction is a frequently debated issue in courts when defendants claim that plaintiffs have no grounds to bring claims against them in particular states because the defendants do not have enough of a presence in the state in question and thus cannot be subject to the court’s power.

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the court considered a product liability suit that focused on jurisdiction issues. Two separate cases, one filed in Montana, and the other in Minnesota, alleged that defective Ford vehicles resulted in the death and injury of these two plaintiffs. Ford moved to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

According to Ford, the courts would only have jurisdiction if the company designed, manufactured, or sold in the state the specific vehicle involved in the accident. In addition, because the vehicles were designed and manufactured elsewhere and the company originally sold the cars at issue outside of the states involved and resales and relocations by consumers brought the vehicles to Montana and Minnesota, Ford claimed there was no jurisdiction. Both state supreme courts rejected Ford’s arguments and held that Ford’s activities in the state had the necessary connection with the plaintiffs’ claims that a defective Ford caused their in-state injuries.

When the case came before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court held that the connection between the plaintiffs’ claims and Ford’s activities in the respective states were close enough to warrant jurisdiction and affirmed the lower court decisions. Because Ford conducted activities in both Montana and Minnesota, the Court held that the lawsuit arose out of or related to Ford’s activities in those states.

The Supreme Court has previously held that jurisdiction attaches when companies cultivate a market for a product in a particular state and the product malfunctions there. Thus, if a nationally distributed or recognized company sells its product to a significant market of consumers in Maine and the product malfunctions or injures consumers in Maine as well, potential plaintiffs may be able to sue in the state and establish that there is jurisdiction to do so.

Do You Need a Maine Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been recently injured in a Maine product liability case that may involve a large, nationally recognized defendant, contact the attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates today. The attorneys on our team have years of experience representing clients in all types of claims and will tirelessly advocate on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free initial consultation today, contact us at 1-800-804-2004.

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