Texas Court Was Proper Forum for Product Liability Case Against Tire Company, Even Though Rollover Happened in Mexico

East Texas car accident cases can sometimes involve issues beyond the typical “which driver was at fault” or “how much is the case worth” questions. For instance, sometimes the defendant in the case is not a driver at all, but instead a manufacturer of an automobile or component part. In these situations, jurisdiction and venue may be disputed, especially if the accident happened somewhere other than the county – or even the country – in which the lawsuit was filed.Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered on appeal (No. 08-17-00119-CV; Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas), the court of appeals described the facts as “a variation on a familiar theme” in law school textbooks. It analyzed whether the defendant, an out-of-state tire manufacturer that had allegedly targeted Texas as a marketplace and sold products extensively here, could be brought into a Texas court to answer a claim of product liability for an accident that occurred when the plaintiffs, all Texas residents, were traveling in Mexico.

Decision of the Court

The court of appeals sided with the plaintiffs, agreeing with them that the trial court had properly exercised personal jurisdiction over the defendant. In affirming the trial court’s judgment, the appellate court noted that the jurisdictional facts were undisputed. The defendant was incorporated in New York, had its principal base of business in South Carolina, and did not have a physical presence in Texas; it did, however, use distributors to penetrate markets across the country. In Texas, this included three main distribution companies, dozens of authorized dealers in brick-and-mortar stores, and a website that allowed Texas consumers to directly purchase merchandise. The court also observed that the defendant was “no stranger” to the courts of Texas, having filed several lawsuits seeking affirmative relief and answering numerous other lawsuits against it without contesting jurisdiction.

In the case at bar, the tire that allegedly caused the automobile accident that harmed the plaintiffs was originally purchased in Texas by a prior owner of the automobile. The accident happened across the border in Mexico; the rollover crash killed one person and injured several others. The trial court overruled the defendant’s “special appearance” request. Under these circumstances, the appellate court found that, while no general jurisdiction existed over the defendant, there was a sufficient nexus between the claim, the defendant, and the state to permit the exercise of specific jurisdiction. In so holding, the court also ruled that the intervening retail sale of the tire in Texas by a third party did not per se insulate the defendant from personal jurisdiction in Texas.

Schedule a Consultation

Car crashes are almost always avoidable. If someone in your family has suffered significant injuries or a wrongful death because of the negligence of a motorist, automotive part maker, or other individual or business, you need to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. These cases can be much more difficult than they initially appear, and it is crucial to get an early start if success is to be had. For an appointment with a skilled east Texas car accident attorney, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300. We have over 30 years of experience handling automobile accident cases, and we look forward to assisting your family with the litigation of your Smith County, Tyler, or other east Texas car wreck case.

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