A federal court in Michigan has denied a motion to dismiss filed by the Italian manufacturer of a drafting table that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs while it was being moved; the court found that the company had sufficient contacts with Michigan to establish personal jurisdiction. Yeszin v. Neolt, S.P.A., No. 1:11-cv-10466-LPZ-RSW (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mich., S. Div., order entered August 3, 2012).  

The plaintiffs sued for product defect and inadequate warnings. Relying on a specific jurisdiction theory, they claimed that personal jurisdiction was established by the Italian company’s business relationship with a Michigan company and its predecessors, which were apparently the exclusive U.S. distributors for Neolt’s products in the 1970s and 1980s. Labels on the drafting table indicated a 1986 manufacture date, and the plaintiffs presented evidence documenting sales of drafting tables by the defendant to the Michigan company in more recent years (2000-2008), thus “suggesting those sales constituted purposeful availment by Defendant of the privileges and protections of Michigan laws by virtue of conducting business there.”  

The court agreed that jurisdiction over the defendant was proper under the state’s long-arm statute and that due process would not be offended by the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over it. According to the court, “The relationship with Michigan was not random but specific; shipping goods to a forum is far from attenuated,” and “[w]hile the exact nature of the business transactions between Neolt and [the Michigan company] is indefinite, it is axiomatic that Defendant chose to ship products to Michigan, anticipated that its drafting tables would reach Michigan, and enjoyed the benefits and protections of Michigan laws.” The court also determined that the cause of action arose out of the activities directed at Michigan and that “the acts of Defendant and the consequences of those acts have a substantial enough connection with Michigan to make the exercise of jurisdiction over Defendant reasonable.”