Attorney John Gsanger of The Ammons Law Firm has won an appellate victory for the family of a New Mexico Man who was killed in a single-vehicle rollover accident in Texas.
The case arises from a 2015 single-vehicle rollover accident, which occurred while the decedent returned home with his brother to New Mexico from Texas in a 2001 Ford Explorer. The Explorer came with a spare Firestone FR480 tire manufactured by Bridgestone. In July 2015, the victim had taken his SUV to a Sunland Park, N.M. tire shop, where they removed the FR480 from the spare tire position, installing it as the left rear tire. The FR480 was about 22 years old at the time it was installed.
A month later, the decedent was driving through Texas with his brother when the tread on the Explorer’s left rear tire began to peel, causing the Explorer to roll over, killing the decedent. The Ammons Law Firm filed a wrongful death suit against Bridgestone, alleging that the fatal accident was caused by the tire tread separation on the Bridgestone tire installed on the 2001 Explorer the month prior by the Sunland tire shop.
The Ammons Law Firm filed a Wrongful Death action against Bridgestone and several others on behalf of the deceased’s family in the District Court of Santa Fe County, alleging that the tire was defective in its design and manufacture due to the propensity of the tread to peel off and that Bridgestone should have notified tire shops in New Mexico to remove this tire from service if it is more than ten years old. Bridgestone quickly filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, which the district court denied. Bridgestone then filed an interlocutory appeal (Chavez I) alleging that the district court erred in its denial of Bridgestone’s motion to dismiss based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Without addressing the issue of specific personal jurisdiction, The Court of Appeals of The State of New Mexico held that Bridgestone consented to general personal jurisdiction in New Mexico by registering to do business in New Mexico through the BCA.
Bridgestone then appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court of New Mexico. On certiorari review, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals and held that the BCA does not compel a foreign corporation to consent to general personal jurisdiction. The supreme court then remanded the case to the court of appeals to consider the original question presented by Bridgestone of whether the district court can exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Bridgestone, thereby deciding if the district court erred in its denial of Bridgestone’s motion to dismiss.
The court of appeals considered the issue of personal jurisdiction over the foreign corporation Bridgestone de novo using the “minimum contacts” test to determine whether Bridgestone purposely availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities within the state of New Mexico. Bridgestone’s argument that there were no identifiable, purposeful contacts in New Mexico because the fatal collision happened in Texas and the tire and vehicle were not purchased in New Mexico was dismissed by the court, which found that Bridgestone maintained many purposeful contacts in New Mexico. The court declined to agree with Bridgestone that its contacts with the forum state must directly connect to the basis of the plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, the court held that, although the death resulted from an accident that occurred in Texas, the tire was installed by a tire shop in New Mexico, and Bridgestone never warned the tire shop to avoid installing aged tires. Thus, the court found that these contacts, in connection with Bridgestone marketing, promoting, and selling tires extensively throughout New Mexico, were sufficient for the district court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Bridgestone in the wrongful death claim.
As noted by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, the court’s holding is supported by The Supreme Court of The United States’ holding in Ford, “we have never framed the specific jurisdiction inquiry as always requiring proof of causation—i.e., proof that the plaintiff’s claim came about because of the defendant’s in-state conduct.” Ford Motor Co. v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct., U.S., 141 S. Ct. 1017, 1026 (2021).
John Gsanger is a passionate and successful advocate for product safety. His nationwide law practice has resulted in settlements that have, in turn, led to recalls of defective tires. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization has awarded John with a rare double Board Certification in both Personal Injury Trials and Appeals. As a trial attorney, John has repeatedly helped his clients achieve justice. John has helped set the standards for justice by winning numerous multimillion-dollar cases against major tire and automobile manufacturers across the nation.
The Ammons Law Firm is a nationwide personal injury practice focused on product liability, tire defects, truck accidents, rollovers, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seatbelt defects, airbag defects and plant explosions.
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