On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Court and the consolidated case of Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer. The case turned on specific personal jurisdiction, the type of contacts required by the Fourteenth Amendment to satisfy Due Process, and the Court’s precedent in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, which sets the standards required for an out-of-state defendant to be constitutionally called into a foreign state court.
In this case, two plaintiffs sued Ford alleging product liability causes of action resulting from death and serious injury that occurred during accidents allegedly caused by product defects. Markkaya Gullett died and Adam Bandamer was seriously injured. The pair of wrongful death and serious bodily injury product liability claims were brought separately in the states where the death and the injury respectively took place: Montana and Minnesota.
Ford Motor Co., as an out of state defendant incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Michigan, argued in both cases that insufficient contacts connected Ford to the two forum states so neither the Montana nor the Michigan state court could constitutionally exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Ford. Both state court cases were heard by their state Supreme Courts and both times, the Supreme Courts ruled against Ford holding Ford was properly subject to personal jurisdiction in their state judicial system.
Ford appealed both state Supreme Court decisions on the constitutional Due Process question. In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against Ford holding that Ford’s contacts with both forum states were sufficiently extensive and connected to the subject matter of each suit that an exercise of personal jurisdiction could satisfy Due Process and was reasonable and fair in line with International Shoe.
-- Karen Harned, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center
-- Jaime A. Santos, Partner, Goodwin Procter LLP