With a hat tip to Sean Wajert at the MassTort Defense blog, for an article on the opinon, set out below are recent, striking words from the New Jersey Supreme Court on the scope of the state’s power to exercise jurisdiction over non-US companies that export goods to the United States, The Court minces no words in responding to the huge onset of imports. One assumes that both US manufacturers and plaintiff’s counsel will like this ruling since it helps to preserve a level playing field for US and non US manufacturers. As some will recall, the US Chamber of Commerce and AAJ last August agreed on efforts to broaden jurisdiction over non-US manufactrurers. The opinion is Nicastro v. McIntyre Machinery America Ltd., No. A-29-08 (N.J. 2/2/10).
"JUSTICE ALBIN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Today, all the world is a market. In our contemporary
international economy, trade knows few boundaries, and it is now
commonplace that dangerous products will find their way, through
purposeful marketing, to our nation’s shores and into our State.
The question before us is whether the jurisdictional law of this
State will reflect this new reality.
In this case, the foreign manufacturer of an allegedly
defective and dangerous industrial machine targeted the United
States economy for the sale of its product. The machine was
sold to a New Jersey business by the manufacturer’s exclusive
American distributor. An employee of that New Jersey business
lost several fingers while using the machine because the machine
allegedly lacked a safety guard. The foreign manufacturer knew
or reasonably should have known that by placing a product in the
stream of commerce through a distribution scheme that targeted a
fifty-state market the product might be purchased by a New
Jersey consumer. We must resolve whether under those
circumstances the manufacturer is subject to the jurisdiction of
our State court system in a product-liability action.
We affirm the Appellate Division, which found the New
Jersey Superior Court, Law Division, as the proper forum for
this action. We also reaffirm our decision in Charles Gendler &
Co. v. Telecom Equipment Corp., in which we held that “the
stream-of-commerce theory supports the exercise of jurisdiction
if the manufacturer knew or reasonably should have known of the
distribution system through which its products were being sold
in the forum state.” 102 N.J. 460, 480 (1986). The
increasingly fast-paced globalization of the world economy has
removed national borders as barriers to trade and has proven the
wisdom of Charles Gendler. Due process permits this State to
provide a judicial forum for its citizens who are injured by
dangerous and defective products placed in the stream of
commerce by a foreign manufacturer that has targeted a
geographical market that includes New Jersey. See id. at 480-
83. The exercise of jurisdiction in this case comports with
traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice."