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From Products Liability Law Daily, February 21, 2019

Marketer successfully contests jurisdiction in firecracker explosion action

By Levy M. Burns, J.D.

A federal court in Missouri lacked specific personal jurisdiction over a Kansas-based promotional company which primarily engaged in raising brand awareness for a brand of fireworks and which did not conduct any commercial activity or target the residents of the forum state.

A marketing company which was sued for injuries allegedly caused by the premature explosion of a firecracker in a Colorado woman's hand was not subject to Missouri jurisdiction, a federal district court in Missouri ruled. No evidence was produced demonstrating that the company transacted any business in Missouri, or even targeted Missouri residents with any marketing materials, making an exercise of specific jurisdiction improper (Marty v. Dave's Wholesale Fireworks, February 19, 2019, Cohen, P.).

A Colorado woman’s hand was seriously injured when a firecracker that she was holding allegedly went off prematurely. The woman lost two fingers and most of her thumb on her left hand. She was a resident of Illinois at the time of the accident. The firecracker was manufactured and distributed by a Hong Kong company, and sold through a Missouri retailer. A promotional company, Black Cat Marketing USA, was named as a defendant in the woman’s tort action, and is headquartered in Kansas and primarily operates as a promoter of a brand of fireworks. The promotional company does not manufacture, distribute, or sell any fireworks itself; rather it engages in various marketing activities meant to raise brand awareness. The promotional company contested Missouri jurisdiction in the case at bar, asserting that it committed no tortious act, nor contracted any business in Missouri. As such, it argued, an exercise of specific jurisdiction over it would be improper. The Missouri federal district court agreed, and granted the promotional company's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Specific jurisdiction. The court assessed the nature of the promotional company as one that did not engage in any actual commerce within Missouri, or anywhere else. The company consisted of three employees whose primary activities were the graphic design of promotional materials found on a website that they maintained and used merely for raising brand awareness. The company asserted that it was not responsible for the distribution or sale of any products into the stream of commerce, nor did it target Missouri with any of its marketing activities, nor were any products offered for sale on the website that it maintained. The court noted that mere passive internet activity where a website was not used to complete any transaction, facilitate any communication, or beget any interaction was too remote for a finding of jurisdiction—particularly when there was no targeting of Missouri residents. Taking these factors into consideration, the court granted the company's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The case is No. 2:18-cv-00038-PLC.

Attorneys: Robert B. Patterson, Jr. (Law Offices of Robert B. Patterson, Ltd.) for Andrea Marty. Bradley R. Hansmann (Brown and James, PC) for Black Cat Marketing USA. Jules V. De Coster (De Coster Law, LLC) for Dave's Wholesale Fireworks, Inc.

Companies: Black Cat Marketing USA; Dave's Wholesale Fireworks, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory JurisdictionNews SportsandRecEquipmentNews MissouriNews

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