U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief of Law Professors in Support of Respondents, J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. v. Nicastro, No. 09-1343
40 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011 Last revised: 25 Jun 2011
Date Written: December 20, 2010
This brief was filed by law professors and legal scholars from across the country with expertise in the areas of civil procedure, conflict of laws, and transnational litigation. The amici curiae have an interest in the proper interpretation of the constitutional restrictions on personal jurisdiction and their effect on civil adjudication. Amici believe that the Supreme Court’s well-established principles confirm that New Jersey courts may permissibly exercise jurisdiction in this case. The Court’s fractured decision in Asahi Metal Industry Co. Ltd. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987), has spurred some uncertainty about whether U.S. courts may constitutionally exercise jurisdiction over foreign manufacturers whose products are sold to U.S. customers and cause injury in the United States. Although Asahi divided 4-4 on whether the foreign manufacturer in that case had established minimum contacts with California, both sides of the split endorsed this long-standing consensus: a manufacturer establishes minimum contacts with the forum when it purposefully seeks to serve – directly or indirectly – the market in the forum state and its product thereby causes injury in that state. This Court should reaffirm this principle and conclude that New Jersey courts may properly assert jurisdiction over Petitioner, a British manufacturer of large metal shearing machines.
There is no question that Petitioner purposefully sought to serve and profit from the U.S. market for its products by, among other things: directly engaging a U.S.-based company to be the exclusive distributor for Petitioner’s machines in the territory of the United States; touting in its literature that its machines comply with American safety standards; and having its own high-level officials attend dozens of U.S. trade shows in an effort to promote the sales of its machines in the United States. By taking these purposeful steps to reach the entire U.S. market, Petitioner necessarily sought to serve, at least indirectly, the particular states that comprise the United States. The shear machine at issue in this case went directly from the Petitioner, to its U.S. distributor, to the New Jersey business where Mr. Nicastro worked and was injured. Given Petitioner’s efforts to reach and profit from the U.S. market as a whole, sales to customers in particular U.S. states are hardly the kind of random, fortuitous, or attenuated contacts that cannot be fairly attributed to the Petitioner.
To refuse jurisdiction on these facts, on the other hand, would embrace a logical impossibility: that a manufacturer can purposefully target the U.S. market generally without also targeting the states that make up the territory of the United States. Moreover, it would immunize such a manufacturer from jurisdiction in any U.S. state, despite its deliberate efforts to access the entire U.S. market. This would create an undesirable and unnecessary disparity between a foreign manufacturer’s purposeful conduct directed at the U.S. market and the power of U.S. courts to exercise jurisdiction over claims arising from that conduct.
Keywords: Personal Jurisdiction, Due Process, Minimum Contacts, Stream of Commerce, Fourteenth Amendment, Asahi, O'Connor, Brennan
JEL Classification: K40, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation