High Court: North Carolina Has No Jurisdiction For Fatal French Bus Crash Case

High Court: North Carolina Has No Jurisdiction For Fatal French Bus Crash Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 27 that a North Carolina court is not the proper venue for a product liability case involving a tire manufactured in Turkey that allegedly caused a fatal bus accident in France that killed a pair of American teens (Goodyear Dunlap Tires Operations, et al. v. Edgar D. Brown, et al., No. 10-76, U.S. Sup.). 

Edgar D. Brown, Pamela Brown and Karen M. Helms sued Goodyear Dunlap Tires Operations, Goodyear France, Goodyear Luxembourg and Goodyear Turkey in the Onslow County, N.C., Superior Court as administrators of the estates of their children Julian Brown and Matthew Helms. 

Julian and Matthew were 13-year-old soccer players from North Carolina who died in a bus crash outside Paris on April 18, 2004.  The plaintiffs contend that one of the bus tires, a Goodyear Regional RHS tire manufactured by Goodyear Turkey, failed when the tire plies separated. 

The plaintiffs alleged that Goodyear was negligent in the design, construction, testing and inspection of the tire and failed to warn about defects in the product. 

The defendants moved dismiss based on an alleged lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes Section 1A-1, Rule 12(b)(2).  Judge Gary E. Trawick denied the motion, and the state Court of Appeals affirmed. 

Goodyear filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on July 13, 2010.  The Supreme Court granted the petition on Sept. 28.  The high court was presented with the question of "whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products placed in the stream of commerce by the defendant." 

A unanimous Supreme Court reversed the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision, noting that the petitioners are not registered to do business in North Carolina and do not manufacture, design or advertise products in the state. 

"A connection so limited between the forum and the foreign corporation, we hold, is an inadequate basis for the exercise of general jurisdiction," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.  "Such a connection does not establish the 'continuous and systematic' affiliation necessary to empower North Carolina courts to entertain claims unrelated to the foreign corporation's contacts with the State." 

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the July 11 issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Personal Injury.  In the meantime, the opinion is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #77-110711-003Z.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]  

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