CCL President Robert S. Peck told a federal appeals court yesterday that personal jurisdiction over a Japanese defendant for a collision between its container ship and a U.S. Navy destroyer comported with due process and the circuit's precedents, requiring that the district court's contrary decision be reversed.

     The lawsuit grows out of a 2017 collision in which the U.S.S. Fitzgerald suffered a significant gash that flooded compartments where the killed and injured sailors were. Personal jurisdiction was premised on a federal rule of civil procedure, Rule 4(k)(2), which applies to lawsuits based on federal law where no state court would have jurisdiction. The district court, sitting in the Eastern District of Louisiana, superimposed a requirement that the foreign defendant also be "at home" in the U.S. Peck asserted that that was error before a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

      Instead, Peck argued that existing precedent was unimpaired and that it merely required sufficient national contacts. Opposing counsel conceded that, if a national contacts rule applied, his client, NYK Line, did have sufficient national contacts. 

      Peck added that an "at home" overlay would render Rule 4(k)(2) a nullity, for it would apply to no instances at all. If a defendant was "at home" in the United States, then it would necessarily be subject to jurisdiction in some state's court. As a result, the rule would never apply to any instance and would be considered unconstitutional if the "at home" requirement were considered a function of due process.

      The case is now under advisement.