Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Foreign Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturer
Jul 27, 2022
United States District Court Judge Jeffrey V. Brown issued a 29-page memorandum opinion and order dismissing claims against a foreign battery manufacturer for lack of personal jurisdiction. James Ethridge v. Samsung SDI Co., Ltd., Et al., No. 3:21-CV-306 (July 26, 2022)(J. Brown). Will Moye, Ray Kutch and Jeannie Nguyen represented the manufacturer in the district court.
The case is one of several cases filed in Texas and throughout the United States involving injuries caused by lithium-ion battery cells used in e-cigarette devices manufactured and sold by a third party. The plaintiff filed suit against the foreign battery manufacturer and other defendants for bodily injuries allegedly sustained after a lithium-ion battery in his pants pocket suddenly exploded and caught fire. The plaintiff alleged that he purchased the battery manufactured by the foreign battery manufacturer from a third-party seller through an online marketplace.
Thompson Coe moved to dismiss the claims against the foreign battery manufacturer, arguing that the manufacturer, which is based in South Korea, is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Texas. Thompson Coe pointed out that the foreign manufacturer carefully limited the distribution of its lithium-ion battery cells to sophisticated companies that incorporate the battery cells as component parts in other products, avoided distributing its products for use outside of a protective battery pack by individual consumers, and specifically prohibited the use of its products with e-cigarette devices.
The plaintiff argued that the foreign manufacturer was subject to personal jurisdiction in Texas because it had various business arrangements in Texas and because it was aware that its products were being used in Texas. Recent opinions issued by federal and Texas appellate courts have blurred the lines of what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish specific jurisdiction over a foreign defendant.
The Court issued a well-reasoned opinion agreeing with arguments raised on behalf of the foreign manufacturer and granted the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court noted that the unilateral decisions of unaffiliated third parties are irrelevant to establishing personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant in Texas. In addition, the Court explained that without more, a foreign defendant’s mere knowledge that its products are being used in Texas is not enough to show the foreign defendant’s purposeful advantage of the forum. Although the foreign defendant shipped its products to locations in Texas and to out-of-state locations of companies based in Texas, the plaintiff failed to show that his alleged injuries arise from or relate to the foreign defendant’s economic activity in Texas.
If you have similar issues regarding complex jurisdictional challenges, Thompson Coe attorneys can assist you.