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The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision recently addressing the question of personal jurisdiction of Ford Motor Company, a global auto company that markets, sells, and services its products across the country and overseas.  The underlying case involved injuries that arose from two earlier model vehicles, including a 1996 Ford Explorer that allegedly malfunctioned and killed someone in Montana, and a 1994 Ford Crown Victoria that was allegedly defective and caused injuries to a driver in Minnesota.

Ford attempted to get the cases in each state court dismissed based on lack of personal jurisdiction, relying on the fact that neither vehicle had been designed, manufactured, or originally sold in either of those states.  Apparently, the specific vehicles involved in the cases had only made their way into Montana and Minnesota through subsequent resales and relocations by customers.

Both state supreme courts rejected the argument, and the U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, affirmed.  The Court reiterated the doctrine established by International Shoe and Hanson v. Denckla that the defendant must take “some act by which it purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State.”  In reliance upon World-Wide Volkswagen Corp v. Woodson, the Court ruled that there was a strong enough relationship between Ford, the specific states, and the litigation to establish specific jurisdiction because Ford advertised and marketed its vehicles in Montana and Minnesota.

Rulings like this can be extremely important to a consumer’s ability to recover compensation for the injuries sustained as a result of defective products. It is important to select an attorney that stays abreast of developments in the area of law that applies to your claim.

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