Supreme Court Denies Review of Jurisdiction Case

January 23rd, 2013

On January 22, the Supreme Court denied review of a case in which a Taiwanese battery charger manufacturer argued that the courts of Oregon should not have jurisdiction to force the company to defend itself in a products liability lawsuit.  China Terminal and Electric Corp. (CTE) manufacturers batter chargers that are incorporated into motorized wheelchairs manufactured by an Ohio company, Invacare. Oregon resident Karlene J. Willemsen, who suffered from advanced multiple sclerosis, purchased one of the Invacare FDA-approved wheelchairs.  On February 1, 2008, Willemsen, physically incapable of escaping the in-home hospital bed she was in, died as a result of a fire that engulfed her bedroom and immolated her.  Her estate subsequently brought suit against, among others, Invacare and CTE.  CTE resisted jurisdiction in the Oregon courts, even though more than 1100 CTE-equipped chairs were sold in Oregon, claiming that due process prohibited Oregon from making it answer the complaint and arguing that CTE never “purposely availed” itself of the Oregon market.  Instead, it said that Invacare alone targeted consumers in Oregon. 

CCL President Robert S. Peck, as counsel for the Willemsen family, argued against CTE’s petition, showing that CTE would be responsible for any liability resulting from a faulty battery charger because it had agreed to hold Invacare harmless and participate in any investigation of harm caused.  For that reason, CTE’s due-process claim did not affect the liability CTE might be assessed, only whether its participation in the case was behind-the-scenes or as a named party.  Moreover, Peck’s brief demonstrated that the Oregon courts had carefully and correctly applied existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent in asserting jurisdiction over CTE.  Given the case’s unique facts, the brief contended that it was a poor vehicle for any reexamination of precedent by the Supreme Court.  With the Court’s denial of certiorari, the case can now proceed to trial.  Oregon co-counsel before the U.S. Supreme Court included Jeffrey Bowersox and Kathryn Clarke.  

CCL Files Opposition to Supreme Court Review of Jurisdiction Case

December 19th, 2012

In China Terminal & Electric Corp. v. Willemsen, a Taiwanese corporation has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court recognizing that its courts have jurisdiction over the foreign manufacturer.  China Terminal & Electric (CTE) manufacturers battery chargers used in motorized wheelchairs sold by an Ohio corporation throughout the United States, more than a thousand of which were sold in Oregon during a two-year period of time.  Because CTE does not directly export its product to Oregon, it claims that the state violated its due-process rights by making it answer in court for the death of a woman who was physically incapable of escaping the in-home hospital bed she was in, when the battery charger allegedly sparked a fire that engulfed her bedroom and immolated her.  CCL, representing the estate and heirs of the deceased, filed a brief in opposition to CTE’s petition for certiorari, written by Robert S. Peck.  The brief argues that the Oregon Supreme Court properly followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro (2011), in determining that the state courts had jurisdiction over CTE, that CTE’s agreement to hold the Ohio wheelchair manufacturer harmless and to be insured against any liability that might arise makes CTE liable for any judgment, whether or not it participates in the trial and therefore moots the due-process issue it seeks to raise, and that it is premature to revisit the Court’s Nicastro decision before many courts have had an opportunity to apply it.   The petition in the case is scheduled for review at the justices’ conference Jan. 18.

CCL at Symposium on Personal Jurisdiction

October 13th, 2012

CCL’s John Vail presented a paper at the University of South Carolina School of Law’s Symposium on Personal Jurisdiction. You can now access the 2011 Symposium Issue, including John’s article “Six Questions in Light of J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro.”

ERISA Victory in the Seventh Circuit

August 21st, 2012

A federal appeals court has vacated an injunction issued by a district court against an attorney and his clients which had barred them from pursuing an Illinois state court claim against an employee health and welfare benefit plan governed ERISA. The unanimous panel agreed with CCL, which represented the attorney on appeal, that the injunction barring the state-court suit did not qualify under an exception to the Anti-Injunction Act and thus was improper. The decision suggests a path for seeking a fair share of fees under the equitable “common-fund” doctrine in state court litigation.

CCL’s Robert S. Peck was lead appellate counsel in the case. With him on the briefs was Jeffrey White. The case is Trustees of the Carpenters’ Health & Welfare Trust Fund of St. Louis v. Darr, Nos. 10-1682, 10-1793 & 10-2579 (7th Cir. Aug. 21, 2012).

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. v. Nicastro

June 27th, 2012

The Supreme Court issued a splintered 4-2-3 decision in this (specific) personal jurisdiction case, J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. v. Nicastro, 131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011)—the first decision to address this issue in a quarter century. CCL’s John Vail, Andre M. Mura, and Valerie M. Nannery represented the respondent. The ABA Journal has initial coverage.