An Arizona court of appeals panel has determined that an Australian company with U.S. distributors has sufficient contacts with the state for a decedent’s survivors to sue it for strict product liability arising out of a fatal crash involving an aircraft kit that included one of the company’s engines. Van Heeswyk v. Jabiru Aircraft Pty., Ltd., No. 2 CA-CV 2011-0107 (Ariz. Ct. App., decided April 24, 2012). According to the court, the state employs a “‘holistic approach’ for determining whether personal jurisdiction exists,” requiring that courts consider all of the contacts between the defendant and the forum state and ask “did the defendant engage in purposeful conduct for which it could reasonably expect to be haled into that state’s court with respect to that conduct?”
Rejecting the notion that the defendant can “‘close its eyes’ and plead ignorance to its products being sold in Arizona as a means of avoiding personal jurisdiction,” the court found sufficient evidence that the company’s contacts with the state were not casual or accidental, including (i) an expired agreement with one U.S. distributor to sell the company’s products in a territory including Arizona; (ii) sales of 61 company products in Arizona the same year that the decedent purchased his kit; and (iii) no evidence that the company restricted sales within Arizona. The court also determined that the lawsuit arose out of the minimum contacts the company had with the state and that it would not unduly burden the company to litigate the case in Arizona.