Specific personal jurisdiction can be a very straightforward concept. If a plaintiff claims to have been injured by a product that the defendant itself sold directly to plaintiff at a store within the forum state, disputes over specific personal jurisdiction would be rare. Other cases can be closer calls, particularly when a defendant has extensive contacts within a forum but none of them are causally related to the plaintiff’s claims. At what point does a defendant’s purposeful availment of a forum cease to be “related to” a plaintiff’s claims? The Ninth Circuit offered some helpful guidance on that issue in its decision in Yamashita v. LG Chem, Ltd., — F.4th —, 2023 WL 2374776 (9th Cir. Mar. 6, 2023).
Plaintiff in Yamashita was a Hawaii resident who brought a personal injury/products liability suit in Hawaii state court. The suit named two defendants. The first was a South Korean company that manufactured a battery that Plaintiff alleged had caused him injury. The second, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of the South Korean company, was a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Georgia. It did not manufacture the product at issue but distributed it within the United States. Both defendants denied ever selling the product directly to individual consumers. The defendants removed the case to the District Court for the District of Hawaii and moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court granted the motion, and Plaintiff appealed.