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J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro

Supreme Court of the United States

January 11, 2011, Argued; June 27, 2011, Decided

No. 09-1343

Opinion

 [*877]  [**2785]  Justice Kennedy announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which the Chief Justice, Justice Scalia, and Justice Thomas join.

Whether a person or entity is subject to the jurisdiction of a state court despite not having been present in the State either at the time of suit or at the time of the alleged injury, and despite not having consented to the exercise of jurisdiction, is a question that arises with great frequency in the routine course of litigation. The rules and standards for determining when a State does or does not have jurisdiction over an absent party have been unclear because of decades-old questions left open in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., Solano Cty., 480 U.S. 102, 107 S. Ct. 1026, 94 L. Ed. 2d 92 (1987).

Here, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, relying in part on Asahi, held that New Jersey's courts can exercise jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer of a product so long as the manufacturer “knows or reasonably should know that its products are distributed through a nationwide distribution system that might lead to those products being sold in  [****9] any of the fifty states.” Nicastro v. McIntyre Machinery America, Ltd., 201 N. J. 48, 76, 77, 987 A.2d 575, 591, 592 (2010). Applying that test, the court concluded that a British manufacturer of scrap metal machines was subject to jurisdiction in New Jersey, even though at no time had it advertised in, sent goods to, or in any relevant sense targeted the State.

That decision cannot be sustained. Although the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an extensive opinion with careful attention to this Court's cases and to its own precedent, the “stream of commerce” metaphor carried the decision far afield. Due process protects the defendant's right not to be coerced except by lawful judicial power. As a general rule, the exercise of judicial power is not lawful unless the defendant “purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283 (1958). There may be exceptions, say, for instance,  [*878]  in cases involving an intentional tort. But the general rule is applicable in this products-liability case, and the so-called “stream-of-commerce” doctrine cannot displace it.

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564 U.S. 873 *; 131 S. Ct. 2780 **; 180 L. Ed. 2d 765 ***; 2011 U.S. LEXIS 4800 ****; 79 U.S.L.W. 4684; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P18,653; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1295

J. McINTYRE MACHINERY, LTD., Petitioner v. ROBERT NICASTRO, individually and as administrator of the ESTATE OF ROSEANNE NICASTRO

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY.

Nicastro v. McIntyre Machinery America, Ltd., 201 N.J. 48, 987 A.2d 575, 2010 N.J. LEXIS 19 (2010)

Disposition: Reversed.

CORE TERMS

manufacturer, distributor, products, machine, courts, personal jurisdiction, sovereign, cases, plurality, forum state, World-Wide, conventions, customers, amenable, Shear, product liability, purposefully, contacts, Metal, sales, foreign manufacturer, stream of commerce, attended, scrap, ISRI, advertised, quotation, marks, cause injury, recycling

Civil Procedure, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, Due Process, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Purposeful Availment, General Overview, Minimum Contacts, Torts, Products Liability, Procedural Matters, Commencement & Prosecution, In Personam Jurisdiction, Consent, Domicile, Placement of Product in Commerce, Foreseeability, Doing Business