On September 12, 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court limited the extent to which product manufacturers can be subjected to a state’s general personal jurisdiction, even when the manufacturer’s contacts with that state are substantial.
Magill involved a Colorado resident who was severely injured when his Ford Fusion collided with another vehicle. The plaintiff filed suit against Ford Motor Company in Colorado state court. Ford responded by filing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Colorado Supreme Court ultimately held that the trial court erred in finding that Ford was “at home” in Colorado such that the company was subject to the general personal jurisdiction of the state and considered to be residing in the same county as its registered agent.
The Colorado Supreme Court rejected the doctrine where service of process on a defendant in Colorado gives a court jurisdiction over the defendant even if the defendant has no other connections in Colorado. Accordingly, registration of an agent for service of process in Colorado, which is required of corporations doing business in the state and often conferred jurisdiction, is no longer sufficient to confer general jurisdiction over the corporation. Further, in adopting the United States Supreme Court’s “at home rule” reasoning, the Colorado Supreme Court held that Ford was not subject to the general jurisdiction of Colorado as it is not incorporated nor has its headquarters in Colorado. The Court acknowledged that, by any standard, Ford had substantial contacts with the state. Still, the court was not satisfied that Ford's contacts with the state rose to a level that justified exercising general jurisdiction over it. The Court did not opine directly on specific jurisdiction as that issue was not before it.
The Court’s holding reflects the increasing reluctance of federal and state courts to find that states are entitled to exercise general personal jurisdiction over nonresident corporations. Though the Court did not provide an opinion regarding specific jurisdiction, large companies with a nationally marketed product should be keeping an eye on Colorado to see if it will follow in California’s footsteps.