Massachusetts District Court Discusses Personal Jurisdiction Over Out of State Parties in Car Accident Cases

Although car accidents generally arise out of negligent driving, other factors can contribute to the damages sustained in collisions. For example, a defective car part may injure a person involved in an accident. Manufacturers of defective car parts may be deemed responsible for any losses they cause, but they may try to avoid liability by arguing the court in which a lawsuit is filed does not have jurisdiction over them. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed the exercise of personal jurisdiction over entities that are based in another state in a case in which the plaintiff suffered harm due to a defective headrest. If you were injured in a collision, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Cape Cod car accident attorney about your options.

The Plaintiff’s Claims

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in a car accident while riding in a vehicle manufactured and sold by the defendant car company that had headrests made by the defendant manufacturer. She sustained injuries due to the headrest, which she deemed defective. Thus, she filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendants in the federal district court. The defendant manufacturer moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing in part that the court could not validly exercise personal jurisdiction over it. Upon review, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Establishing Personal Jurisdiction Over Out of State Defendants

Personal jurisdiction is the term used to define a court’s power to compel parties to abide by its orders. Parties who file a case in a court are deemed to consent to its jurisdiction. In regards to parties who do not consent to a court’s exercise of jurisdiction, though, the Due Process Clause of the constitution protects their liberty interest in not being held to judgments of a forum with which they have no meaningful ties, contacts, or relationships.

The court explained, therefore, that it could not exercise jurisdiction over the defendant manufacturer, absent a showing that its connections with and conduct in Massachusetts were such that it should reasonably anticipate being called into court there. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction is proper in cases in which it is called into question.

Under the prima facie standard of review, a court determining whether it can validly exercise jurisdiction over a defendant will examine whether the plaintiff has offered sufficient evidence which, if proven to be true, would support the findings of fact essential to establishing personal jurisdiction. A plaintiff may not, however, establish personal jurisdiction via unsupported assertions. In the subject case, the court ultimately found that the plaintiff failed to adduce adequate evidence supporting the assertion that the exercise of personal jurisdiction was proper. Thus, the court granted the motion.

Meet with a Seasoned Cape Cod Attorney

Collisions that are caused by defective car components often cause serious injuries. If you suffered harm in a car accident due to a defective product, it is advisable to meet with an attorney about your potential claims. The seasoned Cape Cod car accident attorneys of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us through the form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.


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