DRI Product Law Update 2015


The U.S. Supreme Court decided four cases in the past year that are likely to have an effect on product liability litigation.

Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 188 L.Ed.2d 12 (2014) (Specific Personal Jurisdiction)

Walden is the Court’s first attempt to address specific personal jurisdiction since the Court’s 4-2-3 plurality decision in J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011). Although the decision does not involve product liability, it was a unanimous decision. The case was argued on the same day as another important general jurisdiction case, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. ––––, ––––, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014), but the decision was not rendered until over a month after Bauman. Plaintiffs, professional gamblers and residents of Nevada, were returning home from a gambling trip. They departed Puerto Rico, carrying $97,000 in their luggage. They were stopped at the gate in Atlanta by a deputized DEA agent, who had been alerted by authorities in Puerto Rico. He seized the money, and filed a probable cause affidavit in Georgia. Plaintiffs later got the money back, but filed a Bivens claim in federal court in Nevada, alleging that the DEA agent filed a false affidavit in Georgia, knowing it would adversely affect Plaintiffs in Nevada. The Nevada court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, but the Ninth Circuit reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Ninth Circuit. It held that the court must focus on Defendant’s contacts with the forum State itself. The inquiry is not the defendant’s contacts with persons who reside there. “…[T]he plaintiff “cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum. Rather, it is the defendant’s conduct that must form the necessary connection with the forum State that is the basis for its jurisdiction over him." The relationship must arise out of contacts that the “defendant himself ” creates with the forum State. What matters is liberty of defendant, not the convenience of Plaintiff or third parties.

Republished with permission. This update first appeared in DRI in 2015.