The Appellate Corner

JurisdictionUnited States,Federal,Alabama
CitationVol. 72 No. 5 Pg. 0359
Publication year2011

Vol. 72 No. 5 Pg. 359

The Alabama Lawyer



Each June, the United States Supreme Court concludes its term of court. In most years, the pace of opinion releases is slow and steady until the final two weeks, when a frenzied flurry of decisions tectonically shifts the ground of common and statutory law. This year was no different: the Court's final weeks saw a pair of personal jurisdiction decisions with which we will be grappling for decades, along with other significant opinions. (The Alabama Supreme Court has also released several significant personal jurisdiction decisions in the past few weeks, and they included in this article).

Noteworthy Decisions from the United States Supreme Court

Personal Jurisdiction; "Stream of Commerce"

Goodyear Dunlop S.A. v. Brown, No. 10-76 (U.S. June 27, 2011)

North Carolina plaintiffs sued three Goodyear subsidiaries in NC state court on claims arising from deaths occurring in a bus accident in Paris, France. The defendants manufactured tires for cars in Europe and Asia, though a small percentage of their tires were made for U.S. markets. The subsidiaries contended that there was no personal jurisdiction in NC; the lower courts found "general jurisdiction" based on placing tires in the stream of commerce. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the stream-of-commerce cases on which the NC court relied relate to exercises of specific jurisdiction in products liability actions. The takeaway: stream of commerce is not enough for general jurisdiction

Personal Jurisdiction; "Stream of Commerce"

J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, No. 09-1343 (U.S. June 27, 2011)

Nicastro injured his hand in New Jersey in his job, using a machine manufactured by McIntyre, an English concern. Nicastro sued McIntyre in New Jersey state court, in the venue where the injury occurred and the machine was being operated. McIntyre claimed lack of personal jurisdiction because at no time had it advertised in, sent goods to or, in any relevant sense, targeted the state, though its representatives had solicited business at trade shows in the U.S. Nicastro claimed there was personal jurisdiction based on "stream of commerce." The state supreme court found personal jurisdiction, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. A plurality held that the "purposeful availment doctrineis" is still required, and, thus, the "stream-of-commerce" doctrine is not enough to establish specific jurisdiction in products-liability cases. The takeaway: don't rely solely on stream of commerce to support even specific jurisdiction; purposeful availment is required

First Amendment; Violent Video Games

Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass'n., No. 08-1448 (U.S. June 27, 2011)

The Court affirmed the lower courts' striking down of a California law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The Court reasoned that the California law violated the First Amendment because it constituted a content-based restriction, thus requiring that it pass "strict scrutiny." The law could not pass the test because psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Because California has declined to restrict other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation was "wildly under-inclusive."

Preemption; Pharmaceuticals

PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, No. 09-993 (U.S. June 23, 2011)

In a dispute arising from several state products liability actions, the Court held that federal drug...

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