Auto Trade Association Successfully Challenges Plaintiff’s Claims of Specific Personal Jurisdiction

CALIFORNIA — The plaintiff Thomas Toy filed suit against several defendants including National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) alleging that he developed mesothelioma from the use of its asbestos containing products while maintaining vehicles. NAPA moved to dismiss the matter for lack of personal jurisdiction. The plaintiff opposed the motion arguing that the court had specific jurisdiction under the “stream of commerce theory” or NAPA’s “efforts to serve directly or indirectly the market for asbestos containing products in this State.” Both parties agreed that the court did not have general jurisdiction over NAPA.

According to the court, specific jurisdiction exists when 1) the defendant has performed some act or consummated some transaction with the forum by which it purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in California 2) the plaintiff’s claims arise out of or result from the defendant’s forum related activities; and 3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. The court quickly concluded that it did not have specific jurisdiction over NAPA. Here, NAPA submitted an affidavit that “NAPA is a Michigan not-for-profit membership corporation” and it “does not own or operate a wholesale or retail business and does not distribute or sell parts.” The affidavit went on to explain that its members are allowed to use its NAPA logo but that it “did not manufacture, design, distribute supply, or sell automotive parts into the stream of commerce.” The plaintiffs did not contest the facts in the affidavit. Therefore, the motion to dismiss was granted as the court “may not assume the truth of the allegations in a pleading which are contradicted by affidavit.”

Read the case decision here.