Ford v. Montana: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Latest Foray into Personal Jurisdiction and What It Could Mean for Banks




The recent Supreme Court decision in Ford Motor Co. v. Eighth Judicial District Court of Montana et al. goes against the recent trend of the Court to reverse lower court approaches to personal jurisdiction. The Court found that Ford’s contacts with the forum states were sufficient to support the specific personal jurisdiction of the courts of those states over product liability claims brought by residents of those states resulting from automobile accidents in those states. States. Although Ford did not sell the specific vehicles involved in the accidents to buyers in forum states, it was sufficient, according to the court, for Ford’s forum contacts to “relate” to the plaintiffs’ claims regarding the particular facts. of the case.

The Court said that the phrase “relate to” places “real limits” on the exercise of a specific personal jurisdiction – but, according to the Court, the standard of personal jurisdiction does not require a causal link but for or near between the plaintiff’s claims and the defendant’s forum contacts. The contours of these “real limits” are likely to be hotly debated in future cases, and plaintiffs across the country may seek to apply. Ford enginethe wording “related to” outside the context of product liability to support jurisdiction over non-resident businesses whose services are offered or advertised in the forum, including foreign banks providing banking services in the United States .

Background

Ford Motor Company, which is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Michigan, challenged two state court decisions ruling that Ford was subject to personal jurisdiction in Montana and Minnesota because the plaintiffs, each having brought an action in their home state, were injured in their respective state. States while driving a Ford vehicle. For specific or case-related jurisdiction to exist, due process requires that the plaintiff’s claims “arise out of or relate to the defendant’s contacts” with the forum. Ford argued that this standard imposes a requirement of causation and that the requirement was not met because Ford did nothing in the states that were causally related to the complainants’ claims: it did not designed or manufactured the vehicles in the forum states, and Ford did not sell the specific vehicles involved in the crashes to buyers in those states.

The court rejected Ford’s attempt to limit specific jurisdiction only to cases where there is a strict causal connection between the defendant’s activities in the state and the plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, the Court ruled that the exercise of a specific jurisdiction may also be appropriate if the prosecution “concerns” the defendant’s behavior in the forum, while noting that the phrase places “real limits” on the exercise of a specific competence. The Court then focused on the facts of the case, detailing Ford’s contacts in the State – advertising, sale, resale and servicing of the particular model of vehicle at issue in the cases – and determined that those contacts were “Close enough” to support the exercise of a specific personal skill in the circumstances.

Analysis

The Court’s ruling may lead plaintiffs to seek to assert jurisdiction more aggressively over non-resident financial institutions by seizing certain terms. Ford engine. For example, plaintiffs can point out the court’s statement “that when a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a state and that product causes damage in the state to one of its residents, the courts of the state can hear the resulting lawsuit ”(emphasis added). It is not clear what it means to “serve a market” for a financial product – will the “product” be defined narrowly as, for example, “mortgages“, “interest rate swaps” or ” cross-border correspondent accounts ”or more broadly as“ bank ”? In Ford engine, the court noted that the specific models of vehicles involved in the crashes (and not just Ford cars in general) were advertised, sold and serviced in Montana and Minnesota. This analysis indicates that in order to maintain competence, the product in question must be defined narrowly. Of course, this issue will undoubtedly be addressed by lower courts in the months and years to come as they grapple with Ford engine.

Other types of complainants might seek to interpret Ford engine widely too. The Supreme Court’s decision limiting general jurisdiction in Daimler AG v Bauman, some courts have dismissed investor claims against corporate trustees that are not presented in the original forum of the trustee or that do not relate to its activities in the forum. An investor can argue on the basis Ford engine that if the bank “serves the market” for trustee services in the state, by soliciting local issuing clients, it makes itself susceptible to prosecution of claims involving foreign issuers. More broadly, complainants may also seek to use Ford engine to open the door to the jurisdictional discovery of the activities of a bank in the forum. Indeed, these types of facts, relating to the general activities of the defendant in the forum, evoke pre-Daimler dispute over general jurisdiction, when claims regarding (and discovery) of advertising, physical locations and sales volumes in the Forum State were common.

That said, the best read from Ford engineThe conclusion is that it is based on the particular facts of the business. The majority examined closely the depth and nature of Ford’s contact – regarding the very model of vehicle that caused the complainants ‘injuries – to determine that these contacts “relate” sufficiently closely to the complainants’ requests to warrant a particular jurisdiction. . As Judge Alito pointed out in his agreement, those same contacts could easily have causal relation to injuries: “It is reasonable to infer that the vehicles in question here would never have been on the roads of Minnesota and Montana if they were a totally unknown make that had never been advertised in those states, no. ‘was not sold in those states, would not be familiar to mechanics in those states, and could not have been easily repaired with parts available in those states. “

Taking into account the specific facts Ford engine and the Court’s close attention to these facts, financial institutions have powerful arguments that Ford Engine does not disrupt the Second Circuit’s approach to specific jurisdiction: “Where the defendant has had only limited contact with the state, it may be appropriate to say that he will not be subject to prosecution in that state only if the plaintiff’s injury was caused immediately by such contact. However, where the defendant’s contacts with the jurisdiction which relate to the cause of action are more substantial, it is not unreasonable to say that the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction even if the acts committed in the state are not. are not the immediate cause of the plaintiff’s prejudice. . ” SPV Osus Ltd. against UBS AG, 882 F.3d 333, 344 (2d Cir. 2018).

One last point. Ford engine leaves Daimler unchanged. But as we observed when this case was decided, a possible reaction to DaimlerThe contraction of general jurisdiction as a vehicle for obtaining jurisdiction over defendants could be an expansion of specific jurisdiction. Whether Ford engine represents such an expansion is sure to be frequently argued in lower courts in the months and years to come.