Failure to Allege US-Based Contacts Giving Rise to Claims Dooms Negligence Action Against non-US Airline and Airline-Parts Manufacturer

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2017 - Personal Jurisdiction/Forum Non Conveniens

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Sia v. AirAsia Berhad, United States District for the Western District of Washington, April 20, 2017

The children of passengers on board a flight that crashed in Indonesian waters filed actions against multiple defendants pursuant to the Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act. The plaintiffs alleged that the cause of the crash was a defective component of the aircraft designed, manufactured, assembled, and sold by Defendant Artus S.A.S., a French company. Additionally, Plaintiffs alleged that the defendant, AirAisa Berhad, was negligent in failing to monitor and repair the aircraft operated by its Indonesian affiliate.

The District Court concluded that it lacked both general and specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants. General jurisdiction requires that the defendant’s contacts with a forum be “continuous and systematic,” and substantial enough that the defendant essentially be “at home” in the forum. Artus is organized under the laws of France with its headquarters and principal place of business in France. It does not have offices, real property, bank accounts, or any other assets in the US, and does not pay taxes, manufacture products, or do business in the US. Similarly, both AirAsia Berhad and its Indonesian affiliate are organized and have principal places of business outside of the US. Neither airline company operated flights to the US during the time period relevant to the litigation. Accordingly, the Court found no basis for the assertion of general personal jurisdiction, noting that any small fraction of their global revenue derived from US customers, as alleged by Plaintiffs, did not in any event arise from contacts that were continuous or systematic.

Specific jurisdiction requires a smaller showing of contacts, but these contacts must form the basis for the plaintiffs’ claims. Notably, the allegedly defective component was manufactured and sold by Artus in France. Similarly, the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate how their negligence claims directed at AirAsia Berhad, including duties to maintain, repair, and supervise its Indonesian affiliate’s operation of the aircraft involved in the crash, had any nexus with AirAsia Berhad’s contacts with the US.

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