Ex parte Edgetech I.G., Inc., No. 1121291 (Ala. July 25, 2014).

In this case, the plaintiff, Tiffin Motorhomes, sued a parts manufacturer, Edgetech I.G., Inc., located in Ohio, concerning an allegedly defective window component used in a window product that Tiffin installed in its motorhomes. Tiffin filed suit against Edgetech and other parties, alleging that the windows were defectively manufactured. Edgetech moved to dismissthe case based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Particularly, Edgetech argued that it sold its products to a party in Michigan, and that the only steps taken to move its products to be used in Alabama were taken after the products had left Edgetech’s control. Further, Edgetech proved that it had no other type of commercial relationship to Alabama (i.e., no office in Alabama, no business license in Alabama, no registered agent in Alabama, etc.). The trial court denied Edgetech’s motion, finding that Alabama had general jurisdiction over Edgetech.

On an application for a writ of mandamus, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court. In so doing, the Supreme Court found that Alabama lacked both general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction over Edgetech.  First, turning to general jurisdiction, the Court reiterated the standard that a person or entity must have “continuous and systematic contacts” in a state to warrant general jurisdiction over that person or entity. Here, the Court noted in detail that Edgetech proved a complete absence of any contacts between Edgetech and the state of Alabama, save that in a few isolated circumstances products manufactured by Edgetech were used by other parties in products that eventually were sold in Alabama. The Court found that these contacts were insufficient to constitute “continuous and systematic contacts,” such that general jurisdiction was not present.

Moreover, the Court found that specific jurisdiction was likewise absent.  A state has specific jurisdiction over any person or entity that purposefully avails itself of that state, but only as to whatever activity occurs in or is directed toward that state. The Court found that such specific jurisdiction can only be founded on some showing that the person or entity in question either intentionally took some action in or directed to the state of Alabama, or else took some action with the knowledge that it would have some interaction with the state of Alabama. Here, though, Edgetech had no reason to know that its products would be used specifically in Alabama and did not intentionally sell its products in Alabama (selling instead to a merchant in Michigan who thereafter dispersed the products to other places, including Alabama). That being the case, the Court found that specific jurisdiction was lacking. In light of the absence of specific or general personal jurisdiction, the Court reversed the trial court and dismissed the suit against Edgetech.

Orton v. Matthews, 14-10043, 2014 WL 3562741(11th Cir. 2014).

In this case the plaintiff was a borrower whose home had been foreclosed on by Bank of America (acting as a loan servicer) under Alabama law. The plaintiff filed suit to quiet title, claiming that Bank of America had no valid interest in the property. Specifically, the plaintiff attacked Bank of America on the ground that the bank failed to produce the promissory note, that the mortgage was not enforceable by the bank as it was assigned on a date after the assignment of the note, and further the assignment had been “robo-signed” by a notary who had since been convicted of a variety of criminal offenses.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has previously dealt with similar claims. Particularly, that Court had previously found that the assignee of a note need not have been assigned the mortgage at the same time (or even receive assignment of the mortgage at all) in order to enforce the mortgage. Applying that law, the Eleventh Circuit found that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action to quiet title, as the allegations did not implicate any legal problem for Bank of America’s exercise of its rights under the mortgage under Alabama law.

Though not addressing the robo-signing allegation directly, the Eleventh Circuit implicitly discredited that argument by finding that Bank of America properly received assignment of the note and could foreclose pursuant to the mortgage securing such note.