Federal Appeals Court Denies Dismissal of Defective Forklift Wrongful Death Claim – Ainsworth v. Moffett Engineering Ltd.

By May 24, 2013July 17th, 2019Product Liability

As a Missouri product defect attorney, I was pleased to see that a wrongful death case stemming from an allegedly defective forklift was kept alive after a trip to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ainsworth v. Moffett Engineering Ltd. was filed by Mary P. Ainsworth, the widow and personal representative of James Ainsworth. Mary Ainsworth was widowed with three minor children after an allegedly defective forklift ran over her husband as he worked on a farm. The manufacturer of the forklift, Irish company Moffett Engineering, alleged that the Mississippi federal court had no personal jurisdiction over it, but the district court disagreed. After the U.S. Supreme Court decided J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. v. Nicastro in 2011, Moffett asked the district court to reconsider, but it again declined to dismiss. The Fifth Circuit upheld that ruling. Details of the accident were not part of the opinion, but Ainsworth filed her lawsuit in September of 2010 in the Southern District of Mississippi. She claimed that Moffett made a defective forklift that was designed expressly for poultry farms, and that Cargotec USA Inc. was liable for selling the forklift in the United States. Cargotec is a Delaware corporation with its principal offices in Ohio, and it has an exclusive sales and distribution agreement with Moffett. Moffett moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that the Mississippi court had no personal jurisdiction over an Irish company. The district court disagreed, but in 2011, the Supreme Court put out its McIntyre decision. That case said, in relevant part, that a single isolated sale in one state is not adequate to establish personal jurisdiction over a company in that state. The district court found this ruling too narrow to change its mind and again declined to dismiss the case. On interlocutory appeal, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The question is whether Moffett had enough minimum contacts with Mississippi to justify personal jurisdiction. The Fifth said it has always used a “stream of commerce” approach, meaning minimum contacts exist if the defendant sold products with the expectation that it would be purchased or used in the forum state. It agreed with the district court that Moffett could foresee its products being used in Mississippi, because its agreement with Cargotec permitted it to sell products throughout the United States. McIntyre didn’t change the analysis, the Fifth said, because that holding was narrow. From 2000 to September 2010, Cargotec sold 203 Moffett forklifts in Mississippi, far more than the isolated sale at issue in McIntyre. Mississippi is the fourth-largest producer of poultry in the United States, making it easy to anticipate that a poultry-specific forklift would be used there. And the Federal Circuit has come to a similar conclusion, the Fifth noted. This decision allows the case to go forward against the defendant most directly connected to the case. As a St. Louis defective products lawyer who frequently represents people injured by product defects, I am glad. Moving jurisdiction to Ireland might technically be possible, but it would surely make the case difficult or impossible for Ainsworth, who—as a widow with three children to support—likely is suing because she needs to replace her husband’s income. That’s how fighting jurisdiction can sometimes help large companies, with their larger budgets for lawyers, simply out-spend plaintiffs until the plaintiffs are forced to drop the case. As a southern Illinois product liability attorney, I believe manufacturers of dangerous products should be held to answer for their unsafe actions. Carey, Danis & Lowe focuses its practice on helping clients who suffered serious injuries or a loss in the family because of a consumer product that was unreasonably dangerous. To tell us your story at a free consultation, and learn more about your legal rights, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online. Similar blog posts: Illinois Supreme Court Permits Defective Parts Lawsuit Against French Company – Russell v. SNFA Are Product Liability Settlements in Ford Motor Company’s Future? Arkansas Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal of Multimillion-Dollar Defective Auto Verdict