Plaintiff initiated a lawsuit alleging significant personal injuries as a result of a bucket that detached from its coupler on a Komatsu excavator while plaintiff was working on the rehabilitation of the Delta terminal at LaGuardia Airport. Plaintiff sued The City of NY and Delta Airlines in Bronx County under NY’s Labor Law, eventually obtaining summary judgment against the defendants. The City of NY and Delta initiated a third-party action against numerous defendants, including our clients, who designed, manufactured and distributed the coupler, Miller UK Ltd., Miller International Ltd. and Miller International Holdings Ltd. (“Miller”). Plaintiff initiated a separate and direct action against the third-party defendants, including Miller, in New York County.
Miller moved to dismiss both lawsuits for lack of personal jurisdiction on the ground that the sale and installation of the coupler did not arise out of or relate to any of Miller’s contacts with the State of NY and because the unilateral activity of third parties who brought the coupler into NY cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum State. The trial courts denied Miller’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction erroneously relying on unrelated contacts with NY. On appeal, the First Department reversed the trial court’s denials and dismissed Miller holding that the respondents did not establish there was jurisdiction pursuant to NY’s long arm statute.
"Although the Miller parties might have placed the coupler involved in plaintiff’s accident into the stream of commerce, and while they tout having a global customer base and business model, the Supreme Court of the United States has made clear that 'the ‘fortuitous circumstance’ that a product sold in another state later makes its way into the forum jurisdiction through no marketing or other effort of [the] defendant,' or 'the mere likelihood that a product will find its way into the forum[,]’ cannot establish the requisite connection between [the] defendant and the forum' to support an exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. As for the Miller parties’ retention of New York-based patent lawyers and prolix litigation in Illinois federal court, there is no evidence that plaintiff’s accident arose out of these contacts with New York State, or even the United States. For the same reason, the social media posts on which … the parties rely, all postdate plaintiff’s accident. Thus, even if they were to be considered part of a marketing strategy that the Miller parties deployed to market and sell their products in New York State – which, the Miller parties make clear, they were not – they still cannot establish a connection between plaintiff’s accident and the Miller parties’ presence in the State. In light of our conclusion that defendants have failed to establish personal jurisdiction over the Miller parties pursuant to the CPLR, we do not reach the due process arguments."
The decisions can be found at Cruz v. City of New York, 210 A.D.3d 523, 179 N.Y.S.3d 25 (1st Dep’t 2022) and 2023 WL 2696864 (1st Dep’t 2023).