669 F.2d 1150 (6th Cir. 1982), 80-3557, Noel v. S. S. Kresge Co.

Docket Nº:Third-Party Plaintiffs-Appellees (80-3557),
Citation:669 F.2d 1150
Party Name:Marvin NOEL, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. S. S. KRESGE COMPANY and K-Mart Corporation, Defendants and
Case Date:February 08, 1982
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 1150

669 F.2d 1150 (6th Cir. 1982)

Marvin NOEL, Plaintiff-Appellee,


S. S. KRESGE COMPANY and K-Mart Corporation, Defendants and

Third-Party Plaintiffs-Appellees (80-3557),

Appellants (80-3723),


Greenhill Kato & Company, Ltd., Third-Party

Defendant-Appellant (80-3557).

Nos. 80-3557, 80-3723.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 8, 1982

Argued Dec. 7, 1981.

Page 1151

John M. Adams, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, Columbus, Ohio, for appellant in case no. 80-3557.

Charles E. Taylor, Theodore D. Sawyer, Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt, Columbus, Ohio, for Noel.

Theodore Sawyer, Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt, Columbus, Ohio, for appellants in case no. 80-3723.

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Before WEICK [*] and LIVELY, Circuit Judges, and GUY, [**] district judge.

LIVELY, Circuit Judge.

The appeal in No. 80-3557 challenges the personal jurisdiction of the district court over the third-party defendant, a Japanese trading company. The appeal of the defendant, S. S. Kresge Company, in No. 80-3723, takes issue with various trial and post-trial rulings of the district court. The appeals were consolidated for oral argument in this court.



Many of the facts are undisputed. S. S. Kresge Company (hereafter K-Mart), a Michigan corporation, purchased 11,982 dozen six-inch "long-nose" pliers from Greenhill Kato & Co., Ltd. of Osaka, Japan (hereafter Greenhill). The pliers were manufactured by an unrelated company in Korea, and Greenhill was paid a 5% "agent's fee" by K-Mart. The purchase was made by a K-Mart buyer at Greenhill's place of business in Osaka. The sale of the pliers was evidenced by two documents-an "Import Order" which is a printed form of K-Mart and a "Sales Note" which is a printed form of Greenhill. The pliers were purchased as a "Dollar Day Item" and were delivered mounted on cards which identified them as such and stated that they had been manufactured in Korea for K-Mart. The F.O.B. price of the pliers was 48 cents each and their total cost to K-Mart, when delivered to a retail store, was 65 cents each.

The plaintiff Marvin Noel, a resident of Ohio, was seriously injured on March 26, 1977 when a pair of the Korean pliers broke while he was using them in attempting to re-attach a brake spring on his son's automobile. The pliers belonged to Noel's brother-in-law who had purchased them from a K-Mart store in Westerville, Ohio. The injury occurred at Johnstown, Ohio.


Noel filed a products liability action against K-Mart in the district court on December 20, 1977, claiming the pliers were sold in a defective condition which was not observable by the user. In its answer K-Mart admitted that the pliers which broke while being used by the plaintiff were manufactured in Korea for distribution and sale by K-Mart. It also admitted that it expected the pliers to be sold to the public "as a tool." K-Mart denied that the pliers were sold in a defective condition and asserted affirmative defenses of assumption of risk and misuse of the tool by Noel.

K-Mart filed a third-party complaint against Greenhill seeking indemnification for any recovery which Noel might have from K-Mart. The claim for indemnification was based on the following language, which appeared in the first numbered paragraph of the terms and conditions printed on the reverse side of the Import Order:

Seller agrees to protect, hold harmless, defend (if requested by buyer S. S. Kresge Company or its subsidiaries) and indemnify buyer against all liability, loss and expense, including attorney fees, arising from any proceeding brought by any party or governmental agency because of seller's failure to comply with any laws, regulations, or rulings; from any claim of infringement of any patent, trademark, or copyright; from any claim of unfair trade or competition with respect to the merchandise or any part thereof delivered hereunder, or from bodily injury, property or other damage arising out of any use, possession, consumption or sale of said merchandise.

In its answer Greenhill asserted that the district court lacked in personam jurisdiction. It admitted the sale of the pliers, but denied that the sale was made pursuant to the Import Order. Instead, it alleged, the

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pliers were purchased "pursuant to a Sales Note" issued by Greenhill. One of the terms included among the "General Understanding and Conditions" which appeared on the reverse side on the Sales Note provided:

15) Arbitration In case of dispute arising the case will be settled in Osaka. The dispute should be settled as amicably as possible, failing which the dispute will be referred to The Japan Commercial Arbitration Association in Osaka or Tokyo.

On the basis of this language Greenhill maintained that the dispute involved in the third-party action was subject to arbitration in Japan and that suit could be brought only in Osaka.


The district court held that it had jurisdiction over all the parties and the case was tried before a jury, which returned a verdict for the plaintiff against K-Mart. The district court did not submit the indemnification claim to the jury, but directed a verdict for K-Mart on that claim. Though it was stipulated that Greenhill had no agents or employees in Ohio and had never directly transacted business there, the district court found that due process was not offended by permitting Greenhill to be sued in Ohio. The court found that a foreign distributor who sells to K-Mart could not reasonably fail to anticipate that the goods would be sold in Ohio which is among K-Mart's "major markets." This finding followed a discussion of recent Supreme Court decisions dealing with the...

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