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Supreme Court Refuses Jurisdiction Again

Photo of Jay Jackson

Last week the Texas Supreme Court once again agreed with a challenge to the jurisdiction of Texas courts.

The case is named Zinc Nacional, S.A. v. Bouché Trucking, Inc., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010)(4/9/10). In that suit, a driver sued Bouché Trucking when a load of drywall paper shifted. The load was shipped by Zinc Nacional, a Mexican company with no office in Texas. It was being hauled through Texas to New Mexico by Bouché Trucking. Bouché filed a third-party action against Zinc Nacional. Zinc then filed a "special appearance" challenging the jurisdiction of Texas courts. The Supreme Court held that there was no specific jurisdiction with respect to this event, and remanded the case to consider general jurisdiction.

In this case, Zinc had customers in Texas for some of its other products, but not the drywall paper being shipped. Accordingly, the Supreme Court held that there was no "specific" jurisdiction.

"To establish personal jurisdiction, the defendant must have established minimum contacts with the forum state, and the assertion of jurisdiction must comport with 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' The minimum-contacts analysis requires 'some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.' 'Personal jurisdiction exists if the nonresident defendant's minimum contacts give rise to either specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction.' When specific jurisdiction is asserted, the minimum contacts analysis focuses 'on the 'relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.''"

The "the mere fact that [a manufacturer's] goods have traveled into a state, without more, does not establish . . . [sufficient] minimum contacts. . . ." Neither does the "fact that a seller knows his goods will end up in the forum state . . . when the seller made no attempt to market its goods there." The merchant must "direct sales to the forum state, not through it." Since here "there is no evidence that Zinc has attempted to serve the market in Texas," even though it has customers for its other products here, and it receives raw materials from Texas, this is "unrelated to the accident" and will not suffice for "specific jurisdiction."

As a result, a Texas court will not be allowed to determine if Zinc should be responsible for the accident under the doctrine of "special jurisdiction."

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