Supreme Court Given Opportunity to Clarify Specific Personal Jurisdiction

eric-millerGuest Commentary

By Eric D. Miller, Partner, Perkins Coie LLP*

A pending petition for a writ of certiorari presents the United States Supreme Court with an opportunity to clarify whether a state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based solely on the defendant’s sale of components to third parties who incorporate those parts into finished products that are then sold in the forum State.

That question has divided the lower courts since Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). In that case, Asahi, a Japanese manufacturer, had delivered tire-valve assemblies to a Taiwanese tire manufacturer that sold tires throughout the world, including in California. After a California resident was injured in an accident caused by a defective valve, he sued Asahi in California state court. The Supreme Court held that Asahi was not subject to personal jurisdiction in California, but no rationale commanded a majority of the Court. Justice O’Connor, writing for four justices, concluded that the connection between the defendant and the forum state necessary to establish specific personal jurisdiction “must come about by an action of the defendant purposefully directed toward the forum state.” In her view, placing a product “into the stream of commerce, without more,” is not such an act. Justice Brennan, on the other hand, wrote for four justices who believed that placement of goods into the stream of commerce, with the knowledge that they will ultimately be sold in a state, can be sufficient for jurisdiction in that state. Continue reading “Supreme Court Given Opportunity to Clarify Specific Personal Jurisdiction”