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Colorado Supreme Court Decides Personal Jurisdiction Over Ford Motor Co.

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Attorney Tom MetierIn 2013, John Magill’s 2007 Ford Fusion crashed into a vehicle driven by defendant Mark Polunci, which was the subject of the case in John Magill and Suzanna Magill v. Ford Motor Company, No. 15SA332 (Co. Sup. Ct. Sept. 12, 2016).

Magill suffered severe injuries in the wreck, including traumatic brain injury, and spinal injury. Magill and his wife sued Polunci and Ford Motor Company (Ford), claiming the Fusion had a defective seat and defective restraint system that caused the injuries. The Magills sued for strict liability, negligence or negligence per se, and loss of consortium.

The wreck happened in Douglas County, where the Magills reside. Defendant Polunci lives in El Paso County. Ford is a Delaware corporation with its primary place of business in Michigan. Ford has a registered agent in Denver County, and of course, sells cars throughout the state. Ford filed a 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, to transfer venue. Polunci also filed a motion to change venue. The trial court denied the motions to change venue. Ford also moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court determined that the Magills had made a prima facie showing that Ford was “at home” in Colorado and its continuous and systematic affiliations were enough to subject Ford to personal jurisdiction in Colorado.

At issue was personal jurisdiction and venue. The Colorado Supreme Court began by reviewing the law of personal jurisdiction. In concluded that under a recent US Supreme Court Case, Daimler A.G. v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, the court lacked general personal jurisdiction over Ford. In Daimler, the Supreme Court determined that even if a company conducts a lot of business in a state, if it is a relatively small portion of that company’s business, it cannot be considered “at home” in that state.  Therefore, the record in this case does not support the finding that general jurisdiction over Ford is appropriate. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in exercising general jurisdiction over Ford.

None of the parties reside in Denver, nor did the wreck happen there, so venue was not appropriate where the action was filed, in Denver County. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court, instructing it to send the case to a proper venue. Once there, that venue could determine whether Ford was subject to specific jurisdiction.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.