“The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday released a unanimous 8-0 ruling in a civil procedure case sure to result in a collective series of groans from first-year law students while keeping law school textbook manufacturers relevant and in furs for the foreseeable future.
“Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of an engaged but ultimately undivided court. Justice Samuel Alito wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment—as did Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case because she was still unconfirmed during oral argument.
“The basic thrust of the controversies here — and the high court’s ultimate determination of them — is actually fairly simple and is lucidly explained in the very first paragraph of Kagan’s opinion. But to be clear, the decision in the case stylized as Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, is actually two cases rolled into one due to their substantially similar issues of fact and the law at stake.
“In each of these two cases, a state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a products liability suit stemming from a car accident,” Kagan notes. “The accident happened in the state where suit was brought. The victim was one of the state’s residents. And Ford did substantial business in the state — among other things, advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Still, Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not first sold in the [state where Ford was sued], nor was it designed or manufactured there.”
“We reject that argument,” the opinion continues. “When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the state to one of its residents, the state’s courts may entertain the resulting suit.”