Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, Inc., BIL-JA

Decision Date29 July 1997
Docket NumberINC,No. 71216,BIL-JA,71216
Citation954 S.W.2d 371
PartiesLarry POHLMANN, Plaintiff/Appellant, v., Defendant/Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

John J. Allan, Gregory Brough, Clayton, for plaintiff/appellant.

Mark G. Arnold, Matthew Menghini, St. Louis, for defendant/respondent.

CRANDALL, Judge.

Plaintiff, Larry Pohlmann, brought a products liability action against defendant, Bil-Jax, Inc. The jury found in plaintiff's favor and awarded damages. Plaintiff appeals from the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for new trial as to damages only after he declined to accept remittitur. We reverse and remand with directions.

The evidence established that on August 10, 1989, plaintiff was employed as a carpenter by a construction company remodeling a bar and restaurant. He and another worker assembled a multipurpose scaffold for use on the job. When plaintiff stood on the scaffold, it collapsed and he fell to the ground, crushing his ankle.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $2,000,000.00. Defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or alternatively for a new trial or remittitur. The trial court overruled defendant's motion as to liability, but sustained it as to damages; and entered an order of remittitur, reducing the award to $362,339.00. The court granted a new trial after plaintiff declined to accept the remittitur.

Here, defendant contends that as a nonresident, the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. Its challenge is based not on Missouri's long arm statute but on due process considerations. The threshold issue is whether the trial court had personal jurisdiction over defendant.

In his petition, plaintiff alleged that defendant "designed, manufactured and sold or otherwise placed into the chain of commerce a ... Multi Purpose ... scaffold." Defendant denied this allegation and also raised the lack of jurisdiction as an affirmative defense in its answer. Defendant raised the jurisdictional issue again in its motion for new trial. On appeal, defendant contends that plaintiff did not prove that there were sufficient minimum contacts with Missouri such that Missouri could exercise jurisdiction over defendant without violating due process guarantees.

A defendant has the initial burden of raising lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 55.27. When a defendant raises the issue of lack of personal jurisdiction, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to prove that the action arose out of an activity covered by the long arm statute, section 506.500 RSMo 1986, and that the defendant had sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state to satisfy due process requirements. State ex rel. William Ranni Associates, Inc., v. Hartenbach, 742 S.W.2d 134, 137 (Mo. banc 1987). For a state to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the due process clause requires that the defendant have sufficient minimum contacts with the state in which the cause of action arose. State ex rel. Wichita Falls Gen. Hosp. v. Adolf, 728 S.W.2d 604, 606 (Mo.App.1987).

In a products liability case involving a product being placed into the stream of commerce, the minimum contacts required are less stringent than in other areas. Id. at 608. In order to establish minimum contacts within the forum state, the sale or distribution of a product of a manufacturer must arise from the efforts of the manufacturer to serve the market for the product in the forum state and the manufacturer must market and deliver its product into the stream of commerce with the expectation that the products will be sold in the forum state. Welkener v. Kirkwood Drug Store Co., 734 S.W.2d 233, 239 (Mo.App.1987) (citing World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 567, 62 L.Ed.2d 490, 501 (1980)). There must be some acts by which the manufacturer purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting business within the forum state. Welkener, 734 S.W.2d at 237.

Foreseeability alone is not a sufficient benchmark for personal jurisdiction. Wichita Falls Gen. Hosp., 728 S.W.2d at 607. The foreseeability that is critical to due process is not the mere likelihood that a product will find its way into the forum state; rather it is that the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum state are such that it should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there. Id. (citing World-Wide Volkswagen, 444 U.S. at 297, 100 S.Ct. at 567). "The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum state." Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 1239, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958). The placement of a product into the stream of commerce without more is not an action of defendant purposefully directed toward the forum state. Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102, 112, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 1032, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987). Examples of conduct evincing an intent to serve the market include: designing the product for the market in the forum state; advertising in the forum state; establishing channels for providing regular advice to customers through the forum state; or marketing the product through a distributor who has agreed to serve as the sales agent in the forum state. Id.

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6 cases
  • Roberts v. Morse Chevrolet, Inc.
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • April 10, 2001
    ...used vehicles in Missouri and regularly advertises in a newspaper targeted primarily at Missouri residents. See Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, 954 S.W.2d 371, 373 (Mo. App. 1997)(advertising in the forum state is an example of conduct evincing an intent to serve the forum state's market). Further, Ap......
  • Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, Inc., BIL-JA
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • June 2, 1999
    ...Appeals remanded with directions to dismiss the complaint "without prejudice" for lack of personal jurisdiction. Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, Inc., 954 S.W.2d 371, 374 (Mo.App.1997). Pohlmann then filed this action in Missouri state court. The second complaint recited the dismissal of his prior sui......
  • Conway v. Royalite Plastics, 12 S.W.3d 314
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • February 22, 2000
    ...they were received as a sample. The trial court granted Royalite Plastics Limited's motion, citing Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax Inc., 954 S.W.2d 371 (Mo. App. 1997). Spartech consented to a judgment against it. Plaintiffs appeal from the judgment dismissing Royalite Plastics For their only point on ......
  • Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri
    • June 2, 1998
    ...State of Missouri, and obtained a jury verdict in his favor in the amount of Two Million Dollars. (Id. at ¶ 1; Pohlmann v. Bil-Jax, Inc., 954 S.W.2d 371, 372 (Mo.Ct.App.1997)). Judgment was entered, and was appealed. (Compl. at ¶ Defendant argued on appeal that the trial court lacked person......
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