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August 2019

New York Products Liability Team Secure Personal Jurisdiction Dismissal In Favor of Prominent Shampoo Manufacturer

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani New York Partner Erik C. DiMarco and Associate Mohammad M. Haque obtained a significant victory on behalf of a prominent personal care products manufacturer, securing dismissal of all claims through a hotly contested motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. 

The plaintiff, a New York State resident, claimed she sustained injuries from the use of our client’s shampoo while attending college outside of New York State, asserting, amongst other things, defective design, manufacture and failure to warn. Gordon & Rees' attorneys pursued a pre-answer motion to dismiss on the basis that no personal jurisdiction existed as the client was neither incorporated in the State of New York nor had its principal place of business within the State. Even assuming that the plaintiff sustained injuries through the use of our client’s product, the purported injury occurred outside of the State of New York and had nexus to New York. Accordingly, the Gordon & Rees team argued that the New York court lacked general personal jurisdiction and specific personal jurisdiction over our client. 

The plaintiff submitted extensive opposition papers arguing personal jurisdiction existed on the basis that the client's alleged sales of its products generally in the State of New York through third-party distributors and through its website demonstrated a continuous contact with this State whereby our client, although a nonresident, could be considered “at home” in this State. The plaintiff further argued that the underlying controversy occurred in New York as she attested that it was her “custom and practice” to purchase our client’s product in New York thereby implying that the subject bottle of shampoo at issue was also purchased in this State, though no claim nor evidence of such purchase was offered. 

In reply, the Gordon & Rees team argued that the mere existence of a foreign corporation's website and the general sales of its products through retailers nationwide, including in New York, is insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction over it in this case.  Moreover, the team also argued that the plaintiff's mere purported “custom and practice” of purchasing the product in New York failed to establish that the subject bottle at issue was purchased in New York and that absent of such connection, personal jurisdiction fails regardless of the extent of our client’s unconnected activities in the State.  

The court issued a detailed decision wherein it agreed with and adopted Gordon & Rees' arguments as to the lack of personal jurisdiction warranting dismissal of the complaint in its entirety.  Relying on cases cited in Gordon & Rees' motion, the court found that the firm's client was not a resident of New York and did not engage in activities in this State to such extent where it could be considered “at home”. The court held that the mere use of third-party distributors and the extensive of an online website was insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over Gordon & Rees' client.  Moreover, the court agreed with the firm's position that the plaintiff’s attestation that it was “custom and practice” to generally purchase our client’s product in New York was insufficient to establish a nexus between New York and the underlying controversy.  

Erik DiMarco
Mohammad M. Haque