Mississippi Court Dismisses Medical Device Action Against Foreign Manufacturer

1024px-Doctor_takes_blood_pressureIn Arnoult v. CL Med. Sarl, a product liability case, the plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturer of a mid-urethral sling intended to treat stress urinary incontinence. The device, called an I-STOP, was manufactured by a company based in France called CLMS, which sold the device in the United States. The device was distributed by another company called Uroplasty, which the plaintiff also sued in her product liability action.

In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged claims of design and warning defects pursuant to Mississippi’s Products Liability Act, in addition to actions based on negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, fraud by concealment, fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent misrepresentation, and loss of consortium.

Among the number of motions filed after the plaintiff commenced the action was CLMS’ motion to dismiss on the basis that the court in which the plaintiff commenced the action was a court that lacked jurisdiction over the French company. According to the reviewing trial court, when a foreign defendant seeks dismissal of an action based on a lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff has the burden of showing that the court can properly exercise jurisdiction over the foreign defendant. The plaintiff meets this burden by establishing a prima facie case that the company or defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in that court. In reviewing the plaintiff’s proffer of evidence, the district court can consult the entire record, including any affidavits or motions filed by either party.

A court has personal jurisdiction over a party when two elements are satisfied. First, the party must have purposefully availed itself of the protections and benefits of the forum by establishing minimum contacts with the forum. Second, the court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the entity must not offend the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Courts have further delineated two types of jurisdiction: specific jurisdiction and general jurisdiction. General jurisdiction allows a court to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant for a wide variety of claims and activities, even if they are not directly connected to the forum.

Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, occurs when a court has jurisdiction over a party based on their specific and directed conduct in the plaintiff’s chosen forum. Specific jurisdiction exists when the defendant has minimum contacts with the forum, the plaintiff’s cause of action arose from the defendant’s forum-related contacts, and exercising personal jurisdiction over the defendant would be fair.

In attempting to meet her burden, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had purposefully directed its activities toward the plaintiff’s home state of Mississippi and that the lawsuit she filed arose from injuries that were sufficiently connected to those purposeful activities.

In arguing that the court had specific jurisdiction over the French company, the plaintiff asserted a stream-of-commerce theory, which has been commonly asserted when a foreign defendant contests jurisdiction in a product liability action. The court will find specific jurisdiction based on this theory if the court finds that the defendant delivered the product into the stream of commerce while also expecting that consumers in the forum state would purchase the product.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to satisfy her burden. The plaintiff had relied on the defendant’s distribution agreement with Uroplasty to show that the French defendant expected Mississippi residents to purchase its products, but she failed to prove the terms of the agreement.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a defective medical device, you may be entitled to compensation. At Moll Law Group, we proudly serve accident victims throughout the United States, including in Texas, New York, California, and Illinois. Call us now at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

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