It’s not exactly Groundhog Day, but we are sticking with personal jurisdiction. Today we’re sliding two states over to Missouri. Gateway to the West. Home to Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, Dick Van Dyke, and John Goodman. Birthplace of the waffle cone and home to the largest beer producing plant in the country. Unlike Indiana, Missouri is in fact home to one to the top judicial hellholes, St. Louis. And until recently, if we were talking about Missouri and personal jurisdiction it was usually about litigation tourism. Fortunately, since the SCOTUS opinions in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014) and Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), litigation tourism in Missouri is more difficult, and Missouri courts have actually done a pretty good job of changing their ways. We’ve written about that evolution frequently, including here.
Missouri is also getting it right when it comes to foreign manufacturers. In Ackerman v. Howmedica Osteonics Corporations, 2020 WL 6588358 at *1 (W.D.Mo Nov. 10, 2020), plaintiff alleged that his knee replacement surgery had to be revised because the bone cement used in the procedure was defective. The bone cement consists of a liquid and a powder component. Those two components are manufactured and packaged by two European companies, one in Germany and one in Ireland. When the product is ready, the Irish company ships it to an American company’s warehouse in New Jersey from which it is distributed through the United States. Id.
Plaintiff sued the German manufacturer who moved to dismiss on the ground that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. The court relied on rulings by SCOTUS in BMS, the Eighth Circuit in Burlington Indus. Inc. v. Maples Indus. Inc., 973 F.3d 1100 (8th Cir. 1996), and the Missouri Supreme Court in State ex rel. LG Chem, Ltd. v. McLaughlin, 599 S.W.3d 899 (Mo. Jun. 2, 2020) all of which supported defendant’s position. The German manufacturer had a laundry list of reasons why the court should find it had no contacts with Missouri at all, let alone a connection between the state and plaintiff’s specific claims. It never sold a product in Missouri, did no advertising there, has no office or any other assets there, and so on. Ackerman, at *2. Defendant had no way of knowing the cement would end up in Missouri once it shipped the product to Ireland.
Plaintiff argued that the German manufacturer, by placing the product into the stream of commerce for sale in the United States, should have known the product was going to end up in Missouri. And similarly, having submitted approval documents to the FDA so the product could be sold in the United States was enough to conclude that the foreign company availed itself of doing business in Missouri. Id. at *3. But SCOTUS has rejected that conduct direct to United States as a whole is sufficient to establish specific jurisdiction in any particular state. Id. The decision by the Missouri Supreme Court likewise found that when the only contact with the state is sale of the foreign manufacturer’s product by a third-party, that is simply not enough.
This was a pretty cut and dried case of no personal jurisdiction, but since jurisdictional wins in Missouri are still relatively new, highlighting them brings us happiness.