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Ford Will Get High Court Input on Where It Can Be Sued

Jan. 17, 2020, 8:33 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 17 granted Ford Motor Co.‘s request for review of decisions in Minnesota and Montana allowing personal injury suits over cars sold out of state.

A divided Minnesota Supreme Court said Adam Bandemer’s claims arose out of or were related to Ford’s contacts with Minnesota, citing the automaker’s sales and marketing efforts in the state.

And the Montana Supreme Court allowed a suit against Ford concerning an SUV it sold in Washington state that allegedly caused the death of driver Markkaya Jean Gullett in Montana. The Montana court said her use of the vehicle is tied to Ford’s activities there.

Ford argued those courts shouldn’t be able to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the company, because the connections between Ford’s activities there and the plaintiffs’ claims aren’t tight enough.

Ford and others have had some success with that argument elsewhere, including with three federal district courts that recently dismissed similar cases involving Fords.

The plaintiff’s claim should “have at least some causal connection to some act the defendant took in, or aimed at, the forum,” Ford argued in its petitions. The justices should “rule that specific jurisdiction requires a causal connection” between the two, it said.

Bandemer said in his brief, “When a manufacturer like Ford deliberately cultivates a state as a market for its cars, a claim that one of those cars has injured a resident in the state is sufficiently related to those contacts to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction.”

Kaster, Lynch, Farrar & Ball LLP represented Bandemer. Gupta Wessler PLLC represented the Gullett estate. Hogan Lovells US LLP represented Ford in both cases.

The cases are Ford Motor Co. v. Bandemer, U.S., No. 19-369, review grantes 1/17/20 and Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct., U.S., No. 19-368, review granted 1/17/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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