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Court rules against Ford Motor Company in dispute over personal jurisdiction

Ford Motor Company can be sued in Minnesota and Montana over injuries from car accidents that occurred in those states, even though the particular Ford cars involved in the accidents were not manufactured or originally sold in those states, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

“When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the State to one of its residents, the State’s courts may entertain the resulting suit,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in an 8-0 opinion in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District (consolidated with Ford Motor Co. v. Bandemer).

The plaintiffs alleged that they were injured due to defects in Ford cars that were designed, built and initially sold outside the forum states and were brought to the forum state by third parties. Ford has “minimum contacts” with a state through conduct such as designing, building, servicing, advertising, marketing and selling products. And those in-state contacts with the state “give rise or relate to” a claim when they are identical to the out-of-state conduct that caused the injuries at issue in the lawsuit. Although Ford did not manufacture or sell the cars at issue in the forum states, it is subject to the states’ jurisdiction because it sold, advertised, serviced and marketed other cars in those states, the court held.

Justice Samuel Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

Check back soon for in-depth analysis of the opinion.

Recommended Citation: Howard M. Wasserman, Court rules against Ford Motor Company in dispute over personal jurisdiction, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 25, 2021, 11:09 AM),