The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in two cases that could severely limit the ability of individuals who are harmed by defective products to seek justice in court.
Both cases address the power of state courts to exercise jurisdiction over corporate defendants.
In J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, Robert Nicastro lost four of his fingers at work in New Jersey when his hand was accidentally caught in the blades of a metal cutting machine made by J. McIntyre Machinery, a company incorporated in England. He claims the machine was missing a safety guard that could have prevented the accident. J. McIntyre sells machines, including the one that injured Nicastro, to an American distributor that it knows will sell the products in many regions of the United States, and also attends trade shows throughout the country. Despite its long history of doing business in the U.S., J. McIntyre argues that it did not know that one of its machines would end up in New Jersey and therefore that they cannot be sued for Nicastro's injuries in New Jersey courts.
In Goodyear Luxembourg Tires v. Brown, the families of two 13-year-old children from North Carolina killed in a bus accident in Paris sued several foreign affiliates of Goodyear in North Carolina after French investigators determined that faulty Goodyear tires caused the accident. The North Carolina court held that the foreign Goodyear affiliates could be sued in the state because they export at least 44,000 tires to North Carolina each year through a highly organized distribution process. The affiliates challenge the court's jurisdiction over them.
In both cases, Americans harmed by faulty products are seeking justice in our courts, and in both cases, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to affirm that international corporations can be held accountable in American courtrooms. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's recent trend of siding with corporations over individuals could set a dangerous precedent for Americans who are injured or killed by faulty products.