European Manufacturer’s Sale of Motorcycle Tires Through Independent Distributors Not Sufficient to Establish General Personal Jurisdiction Over Manufacturer Under Pennsylvania Law

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2013 - Personal Jurisdiction

Sides v. Harley-Davidson, USA (U.S. District Court, E.D. Pa., May 15, 2013)

Defendant Cooper Tire & Rubber Company Europe Limited (“Cooper”) moved to dismiss product liability and negligence claims arising from an accidental motorcycle death claiming that the court could not exercise personal jurisdiction over it. The plaintiff conceded that “specific” personal jurisdiction did not exist because his alleged injury was not the direct result of actions taken by Cooper in Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the question was whether Cooper had “continuous and systematic contacts” with Pennsylvania so as to establish “general” jurisdiction for it to be sued for actions not connected with the state.

The court found Cooper did not maintain a sufficient presence within Pennsylvania to meet this test. While a number of its tires, delivered by a consignee or carrier, had been sold by independent distributors in Pennsylvania, these sales were too small and occasional to be “continuous and systematic.” The court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the “sprawling view” of personal jurisdiction under which a manufacturer could be sued “wherever its products are distributed.”

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