U.S. Supreme Court Brief of Professors of Civil Procedure and Federal Courts as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents, Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, No. 19-368
33 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2020
Date Written: April 3, 2020
This brief was filed on behalf of fifteen procedural and jurisdictional scholars desiring to promote an approach to personal jurisdiction that reflects fundamental principles of due process and respects precedent. Amici believe the car accidents prompting the underlying products-liability suits against Ford are so centered in Montana and Minnesota that requiring plaintiffs to litigate elsewhere would contradict traditional principles of state sovereignty and undermine the due-process interests at stake in the Fourteenth Amendment. Ford’s argument that specific personal jurisdiction requires a causal connection between its forum activities and the plaintiffs’ claim — such that it can only be sued where it designed, manufactured, or originally sold an allegedly defective vehicle — is not supported by any traditional due-process interest. Ford sought to induce Montana and Minnesota citizens to buy and trust Ford products, and the specific vehicles at issue were purchased second-hand in Montana and Minnesota before accidents on the States’ roadways involving State citizens. Ford’s conduct thus implicates the sovereign authority of Montana and Minnesota, as “every State owes protection to its own citizens,” Pennoyer v. Neff, and each State possesses a “significant interest in redressing injuries” within its borders to regulate and deter wrongful conduct. Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc.
Ford suggests that exercising jurisdiction would violate its substantive due-process interest because it would be unable to predict or control its jurisdictional exposure. But the exercise of jurisdiction in these cases neither violates historical limits on the “contacts, ties, or relations” necessary to subject nonresident defendants to binding judgments, nor contravenes Ford’s expectations about amenability to suit. Courts, including the Supreme Court, have long acknowledged and upheld State sovereign judicial power to protect citizens from allegedly dangerous products by compelling product manufacturers conducting extensive in-state marketing and sales to answer claims for their products causing in-state injuries, irrespective of where the products were originally designed, manufactured, or sold. See Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court; World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson.
Ford also argues that allowing Montana and Minnesota to exercise jurisdiction would violate horizontal-federalism interests. But a State’s sovereign power within its borders necessarily includes some ability to regulate conduct outside its borders. The question, then, is not whether the State’s regulatory authority reached out-of-state conduct, but whether regulating out-of-state conduct encroaches on the interest of a sister State more tightly connected to the conduct at issue. In these cases, the vehicles were purchased second-hand in the forum, registered in the forum, and the plaintiffs suffered injury in the forum. No other State has a greater interest in regulating these incidents. The plaintiffs thereby established the necessary “connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue” to satisfy the traditional demands of the Due Process Clause.
Keywords: Personal Jurisdiction, Specific Jurisdiction, Due Process Clause, State Sovereignty, Product Liability
JEL Classification: K00, K13, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation