Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court

Decision Date25 March 2021
Docket Number19–369,Nos. 19–368,s. 19–368
Citation141 S.Ct. 1017,209 L.Ed.2d 225
Parties FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Petitioner v. MONTANA EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, et al.; Ford Motor Company, Petitioner v. Adam Bandemer
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Sean Marotta, Washington, DC, for the petitioner.

Deepak Gupta, Washington, DC, for the respondents.

Neal Kumar Katyal, Jessica L. Ellsworth, Sean Marotta, Counsel of Record, Kirti Datla, Mitchell P. Reich, Reedy C. Swanson, Erin R. Chapman, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, D.C, Counsel for Petitioner.

Jennifer Bennett, Neil K. Sawhney, Gupta Wessler PLLC, San Francisco, CA, Deepak Gupta, Counsel of Record, Daniel Wilf-Townsend, Gregory A. Beck, Larkin Turner, Gupta Wessler PLLC, Washington, DC, Kyle W. Farrar, Wesley Todd Ball, Mark Bankston, Kaster, Lynch, Farrar & Ball, LLP, Houston, TX, Dennis P. Connor, Keith D. Marr, Conner & Marr PLLP, Great Falls, MT, Counsel for respondents.

Neal Kumar Katyal, Jessica L. Ellsworth, Sean Marotta, Kirti Datla, Mitchell P. Reich, Reedy C. Swanson, Erin R. Chapman, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Justice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In each of these two cases, a state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a products-liability suit stemming from a car accident. The accident happened in the State where suit was brought. The victim was one of the State's residents. And Ford did substantial business in the State—among other things, advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Still, Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not first sold in the forum State, nor was it designed or manufactured there. We reject that argument. When a company like Ford serves a market for a product in a State and that product causes injury in the State to one of its residents, the State's courts may entertain the resulting suit.


Ford is a global auto company. It is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Michigan. But its business is everywhere. Ford markets, sells, and services its products across the United States and overseas. In this country alone, the company annually distributes over 2.5 million new cars, trucks, and SUVs to over 3,200 licensed dealerships. See App. 70, 100. Ford also encourages a resale market for its products: Almost all its dealerships buy and sell used Fords, as well as selling new ones. To enhance its brand and increase its sales, Ford engages in wide-ranging promotional activities, including television, print, online, and direct-mail advertisements. No matter where you live, you've seen them: "Have you driven a Ford lately?" or "Built Ford Tough." Ford also ensures that consumers can keep their vehicles running long past the date of sale.

The company provides original parts to auto supply stores and repair shops across the country. (Goes another slogan: "Keep your Ford a Ford.") And Ford's own network of dealers offers an array of maintenance and repair services, thus fostering an ongoing relationship between Ford and its customers.

Accidents involving two of Ford's vehicles—a 1996 Explorer and a 1994 Crown Victoria—are at the heart of the suits before us. One case comes from Montana. Markkaya Gullett was driving her Explorer near her home in the State when the tread separated from a rear tire. The vehicle spun out, rolled into a ditch, and came to rest upside down. Gullett died at the scene of the crash. The representative of her estate sued Ford in Montana state court, bringing claims for a design defect, failure to warn, and negligence. The second case comes from Minnesota. Adam Bandemer was a passenger in his friend's Crown Victoria, traveling on a rural road in the State to a favorite ice-fishing spot. When his friend rear-ended a snowplow, this car too landed in a ditch. Bandemer's air bag failed to deploy, and he suffered serious brain damage. He sued Ford in Minnesota state court, asserting products-liability, negligence, and breach-of-warranty claims.

Ford moved to dismiss the two suits for lack of personal jurisdiction, on basically identical grounds. According to Ford, the state court (whether in Montana or Minnesota) had jurisdiction only if the company's conduct in the State had given rise to the plaintiff ’s claims. And that causal link existed, Ford continued, only if the company had designed, manufactured, or—most likely—sold in the State the particular vehicle involved in the accident.1 In neither suit could the plaintiff make that showing. Ford had designed the Explorer and Crown Victoria in Michigan, and it had manufactured the cars in (respectively) Kentucky and Canada. Still more, the company had originally sold the cars at issue outside the forum States—the Explorer in Washington, the Crown Victoria in North Dakota. Only later resales and relocations by consumers had brought the vehicles to Montana and Minnesota. That meant, in Ford's view, that the courts of those States could not decide the suits.

Both the Montana and the Minnesota Supreme Courts (affirming lower court decisions) rejected Ford's argument. The Montana court began by detailing the varied ways Ford "purposefully" seeks to "serve the market in Montana." 395 Mont. 478, 488, 443 P.3d 407, 414 (2019). The company advertises in the State; "has thirty-six dealerships" there; "sells automobiles, specifically Ford Explorers[,] and parts" to Montana residents; and provides them with "certified repair, replacement, and recall services." Ibid . Next, the court assessed the relationship between those activities and the Gullett suit. Ford's conduct, said the court, encourages "Montana residents to drive Ford vehicles." Id., at 491, 443 P.3d at 416. When that driving causes in-state injury, the ensuing claims have enough of a tie to Ford's Montana activities to support jurisdiction. Whether Ford "designed, manufactured, or sold [the] vehicle" in the State, the court concluded, is "immaterial." Ibid. Minnesota's Supreme Court agreed. It highlighted how Ford's "marketing and advertisements" influenced state residents to "purchase and drive more Ford vehicles."

931 N.W.2d 744, 754 (2019). Indeed, Ford had sold in Minnesota "more than 2,000 1994 Crown Victoria[s]"—the "very type of car" involved in Bandemer's suit. Id., at 751, 754. That the "particular vehicle " injuring him was "designed, manufactured, [and first] sold" elsewhere made no difference. Id., at 753 (emphasis in original). In the court's view, Ford's Minnesota activities still had the needed connection to Bandemer's allegations that a defective Crown Victoria caused in-state injury. See id., at 754.

We granted certiorari to consider if Ford is subject to jurisdiction in these cases. 589 U. S. ––––, 140 S.Ct. 917, 205 L.Ed.2d 519 (2020). We hold that it is.


The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause limits a state court's power to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant. The canonical decision in this area remains International Shoe Co. v. Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945). There, the Court held that a tribunal's authority depends on the defendant's having such "contacts" with the forum State that "the maintenance of the suit" is "reasonable, in the context of our federal system of government," and "does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Id. , at 316–317, 66 S.Ct. 154 (internal quotation marks omitted). In giving content to that formulation, the Court has long focused on the nature and extent of "the defendant's relationship to the forum State." Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco Cty. , 582 U. S. ––––, ––––, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1779, 198 L.Ed.2d 395 (2017) (citing cases). That focus led to our recognizing two kinds of personal jurisdiction: general (sometimes called all-purpose) jurisdiction and specific (sometimes called case-linked) jurisdiction. See Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown , 564 U.S. 915, 919, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011).

A state court may exercise general jurisdiction only when a defendant is "essentially at home" in the State. Ibid. General jurisdiction, as its name implies, extends to "any and all claims" brought against a defendant. Ibid. Those claims need not relate to the forum State or the defendant's activity there; they may concern events and conduct anywhere in the world. But that breadth imposes a correlative limit: Only a select "set of affiliations with a forum" will expose a defendant to such sweeping jurisdiction. Daimler AG v. Bauman , 571 U.S. 117, 137, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). In what we have called the "paradigm" case, an individual is subject to general jurisdiction in her place of domicile. Ibid . (internal quotation marks omitted). And the "equivalent" forums for a corporation are its place of incorporation and principal place of business. Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted); see id. , at 139, 134 S.Ct. 746, n. 19 (leaving open "the possibility that in an exceptional case" a corporation might also be "at home" elsewhere). So general jurisdiction over Ford (as all parties agree) attaches in Delaware and Michigan—not in Montana and Minnesota. See supra, at 1022.

Specific jurisdiction is different: It covers defendants less intimately connected with a State, but only as to a narrower class of claims. The contacts needed for this kind of jurisdiction often go by the name "purposeful availment." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz , 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985). The defendant, we have said, must take "some act by which [it] purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State."

Hanson v. Denckla , 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958). The contacts must be the defendant's own choice and not "random, isolated, or fortuitous." Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc. , 465 U.S. 770, 774, ...

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