BEAUMONT, Texas — The Ninth Texas Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court's decision and dismissed a product liability lawsuit against Bridgestone Americas Inc. and Ford Motor Co., ruling that Texas courts have no jurisdiction in the case.
Justice Leanne Johnson of the appeals court issued her one-page order Feb. 22, reversing the decision of the 58th Judicial District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, to let the case proceed.
The case was filed in 2014 by the family of Rafael Cardenas, who was killed in 2006 when the 1995 Ford Explorer in which he was a passenger crashed in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Mr. Cardenas' family alleged that the vehicle and a Bridgestone tire installed on the car were defective.
The Texas courts dismissed the suit, but ruled that if Mexican courts declined jurisiction, the plaintiffs could refile in Texas. The Mexican courts did reject the suit, and the plaintiffs refiled in Texas.
The Jefferson County court held that while it did not have specific jurisdiction over a Mexican accident, it did have general jurisdiction over Bridgestone and Ford, meaning that it could hear virtually any claim against both companies even without a Texas connection.
Attorneys for Bridgestone and Ford argued that the Jefferson County court erred in its ruling. They cited Supreme Court rulings to the effect that, absent exceptional circumstances, a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction only where it is "at home" — i.e. where it is incorporated and headquartered.
"Having offices and bank accounts in a state are not enough to subject a company to general jurisdiction here," the companies said in a court filing. "Both, rather, are only one consideration in the general jurisdiction analysis — and the general jurisdiction analysis demands more than Plaintiffs have alleged and proved."
In a statement, Bridgestone called the appeals court decision “fair and just,” noting that it was consistent with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on jurisdiction.