Personal Jurisdiction in Maryland Product Liability Lawsuits

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland personal injury cases. The case deals with the concept of personal jurisdiction. In the case, the court found that a plaintiff’s lawsuit against a car manufacturer should proceed based on specific personal jurisdiction.

Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability to exercise power over a party. A court must have personal jurisdiction over every party involved in a case. In certain instances, defendants may object to the court exercising jurisdiction over them, and argue for a case dismissal. This defense can delay a lawsuit or, if the statute of limitations has passed, completely preclude the plaintiff’s recovery.

The current ruling stems from injuries that a plaintiff suffered when the passenger-side airbags in their vehicle did not deploy during an accident. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was a passenger in the car. Evidently, a Minnesota resident drove the vehicle on a Minnesota road. The driver hit a snowplow and ended up in a ditch. The passenger-side airbag did not deploy, and the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff alleges that the airbag did not deploy because of a defect. He filed a lawsuit in Minnesota; however, the car manufacturer moved to dismiss the claims based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

In products liability lawsuits, Maryland plaintiffs should ensure that their claims are heard in the most appropriate forum. A defendant can only successfully move to dismiss a Maryland product liability lawsuit if the plaintiff cannot establish the five determining factors of personal jurisdiction. These five factors are:

  1. Quantity of contacts with the state,
  2. Quality and nature of the contacts,
  3. Connection of the action with the contacts,
  4. The state’s interest in providing a forum, and
  5. The convenience to the parties.

The court looks to whether hearing the case comports with “fair play and substantial justice.”

A plaintiff should be able to establish that the defendant purposefully avails itself to the benefits of the state and engages in some activities within the state. In product liability cases, this often translates to advertising or marketing in the forum state. In the case above, the court found that there was a relationship between the car manufacturer and the state because the company sold more than 200,000 cars in the forum. Moreover, the court found that the manufacturer explicitly advertised to the residents of the state, and collected data regarding repairs and alternative designs.

Next, the court must find that there is an appropriate connection between the cause of action and the company’s contact with the state. For example, in this case, the manufacturer sold the specific type of car that was involved in the accident. Furthermore, the court’s exercise of jurisdiction must comport with “fair play and substantial justice,” by looking at the interests of the state. In this case, Minnesota certainly has an interest in protecting the safety of its residents. Ultimately, the court found that Minnesota was an appropriate forum to hear the case.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous or Defective Product?

If you suffered injuries because of a defective product, you should contact the experienced Maryland products liability attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. The attorneys at our Maryland personal injury law firm have extensive experience handling complex Maryland product liability lawsuits and can help you understand your rights and remedies. Victims must have zealous advocates to represent them because fighting corporations can be daunting and complicated. The attorneys at our firm can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve. Contact the law firm at 410-654-3600 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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