Man unsure of the safety of his medicine

Breaking news and expert analysis on legal and compliance issues

[Back To Home][Back To Archives]

From Products Liability Law Daily, November 18, 2013

INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL EQUIPMENT—U.S.: Forklift maker’s challenge to long reach of Mississippi federal court denied

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

An Irish corporation that designed and manufactured forklifts, but never maintained a physical presence in Mississippi, remains subject to the jurisdiction of a Mississippi federal court because the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s determination that the company could be hauled into federal court in a products liability action filed by the estate of a Mississippi worker (Moffett Engineering, Ltd. v. Ainsworth, Dkt. No. 13-329, cert. denied November 18, 2013).

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion. In its decision (sub nom. Ainsworth v. Moffett Engineering, Ltd.), the Fifth Circuit declared that its application of the stream-of-commerce approach, as applied by the district court, did not “run afoul” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow holding in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro (131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011)). Although the Fifth Circuit recognized that its stream-of-commerce test, in not requiring that a manufacturer target the forum, was in conflict with the McIntyre decision, it concluded that because the High Court’s decision did not garner a majority vote, it was not binding. Instead, the High Court’s holding could be viewed as that position taken by those Justices who concurred in the judgment on the narrowest of grounds. Based on that maxim, the Fifth Circuit concluded that Justice Breyer’s concurring opinion controlled and noted that Justice Breyer had made it clear that his decision adhered to court precedents and was based on the facts of the case which involved a single sale in New Jersey, the forum state. The Fifth Circuit went on to decide that this case fell outside the limited scope of Breyer’s decision. The facts in the case established that Moffett could have reasonably anticipated being hauled into court in Mississippi because its U.S. distributor, Cargotec, “sells or markets Moffett products in all fifty states, and Moffett makes no attempt to limit the territory in which Cargotec sells its products.” In fact, Cargotec sold 203 forklifts to customers in Mississippi. Also, Moffett designed and manufactured a forklift for poultry-related uses and, thus, could reasonably have expected that sales would be made in Mississippi because it was the fourth largest poultry-producing state in the country.

Petition for certiorari. In its petition, the Irish corporation argued that by ignoring the Supreme Court’s holding in McIntrye, the Fifth Circuit’s decision demonstrated that there was a conflict over the proper test for personal jurisdiction that will continue to cause confusion and conflicting results among the federal circuits. The corporation pointed to a similar case filed against it in Kentucky pre-McIntyre, which had been dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, and noted that in another case filed against it in Missouri since McIntyre, the company was subjected to personal jurisdiction in a state court case. The corporation argued that as a company which sells and ships its products to a single customer located in a single state, these decisions left it with no clear understanding of where it may be required to appear in response to a lawsuit. Until the High Court resolved the disagreement over the proper test for personal jurisdiction, the corporation claimed that it and other foreign manufacturers would continue to be subjected to conflicting results depending solely on the jurisdiction in which they were sued.

The decision of the Fifth Circuit remains standing.

The case number is Docket No. 13-329.

Attorneys: Allen C. Schlinsog, Jr. and James P. Denis III (Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, s.c.) for Moffett Engineering, Ltd.

Companies: Moffett Engineering, Ltd.

MainStory: TopStory JurisdictionNews IndustrialCommercialEquipNews

Products Liability Law Daily

Introducing Wolters Kluwer Products Liability Law Daily — a daily reporting service created by attorneys, for attorneys — providing same-day coverage of breaking news, court decisions, legislation, and regulatory activity.


A complete daily report of the news that affects your world

  • View full summaries of federal and state court decisions.
  • Access full text of legislative and regulatory developments.
  • Customize your daily email by topic and/or jurisdiction.
  • Search archives for stories of interest.

Not just news — the right news

  • Get expert analysis written by subject matter specialists—created by attorneys for attorneys.
  • Track law firms and organizations in the headlines with our new “Who’s in the News” feature.
  • Promote your firm with our new reprint policy.

24/7 access for a 24/7 world

  • Forward information with special copyright permissions, encouraging collaboration between counsel and colleagues.
  • Save time with mobile apps for your BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle.
  • Access all links from any mobile device without being prompted for user name and password.