Editor’s Note: Avery Welker is a rising 2L at Mizzou and likely a future patent attorney. He authors a series linking law school canonical cases with intellectual property counterparts. You can email ideas for future posts to email@example.com. – Dennis Crouch
By Avery Welker
This past Spring semester, I had Civil Procedure II on my schedule. As taught this year, Civil Procedure II took us through personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, and finished off with the Erie doctrine. Personal jurisdiction was the bulk of our semester, taking us through midterms. I had my midterm on March 19, 2021 – six days before the Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct. decision. Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct., 141 S.Ct. 1017 (2021). Prof. Crouch diligently placed Ford on our class’s radar as the midterm approached, and I was crossing my fingers every day to hope that my new Civil Procedure book wasn’t going to become outdated less than six months after I bought it.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case! Instead of a radical ripple effect on personal jurisdiction, it made a splash in another way: expanding on our understanding of due process and specific jurisdiction. As of May 24, 2021, 63 cases have cited Ford. Upon reading Ford, it’s easy to see why. Ford is a fantastic resource for personal jurisdiction, elaborating on general and specific personal jurisdiction, expanding understanding of minimum contacts, and giving a north star to perform the analyses. Id. at 1024-25.
Ford’s utility as a roadmap is immediately apparent. One example stems from a budding Trademark infringement suit: Galaxy America, Inc. v. EZ Inflatables, Inc., No. 2:19-cv-855-JES-MRM, slip op. at *1 (M.D. Fla. May 12, 2021). Galaxy America, Inc. (Plaintiff / Galaxy) alleged that EZ Inflatables, Inc. and its owner, Edgar Abraamyan (Defendants / EZ Inflatables), designed and sold knock-off products based on Galaxy’s designs. Id. Galaxy designs various commercial amusement inflatables (e.g., slides, obstacle courses, etc.), marketed under their TOXIC® trademark and Galaxy’s trade dress. Id. This decision partly responds to Abraamyan’s Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss all counts against him for lack of personal jurisdiction. Id.
In performing the personal jurisdiction analysis, the Middle District of Florida lays out the roadmap for the examination, indicating that the court will need to go through specific and general jurisdiction analyses. Id. at *2. Here, the court produces a lengthy quote from Ford, setting the scene for the examinations. The gist of Abraamyan’s argument is that he is not a Florida resident and has insufficient contacts with Florida to warrant the exercise of personal jurisdiction. Id. at *3.
Of course, that is the same song and dance as every personal jurisdiction question hypo given in Civil Procedure classes. In Civil Procedure II, the analysis pattern I learned flowed from first looking to a long-arm statute, seeking out any traditional Pennoyer bases of personal jurisdiction (e.g., presence), and performing an International Shoe minimum contacts analysis.
The Middle District of Florida follows the pattern set out by Ford. The court first analyzes whether Florida may exercise general jurisdiction over Abraamyan, which it declines to assert. Id. at *4-5. Next, the court looks to whether Galaxy pled sufficient facts to plausibly demonstrate specific jurisdiction, based on directing tortious activity to Florida, satisfying Florida’s long-arm statute and the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction. Id. at *6.
At this point in the decision, my understanding of personal jurisdiction expanded. It was often easy to take the statutory authorization for granted or as a given in class. Generally, most of our analysis came from the multitude of court cases involving personal jurisdiction (e.g., International Shoe, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daimler A.G., etc.). For me, it serves as a reminder that the analysis must cover all the bases in the analysis. In my first reading of this decision, I assumed that what the court was doing in the specific jurisdiction was a pared-down version of a minimum contacts analysis. Instead, it was what we usually readily assumed in a classroom setting.
Upon finding that the tortious activity alleged by Galaxy was plausible, the court continues the personal jurisdiction inquiry into a third prong of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Here is where the comfortable terms “purposeful avail[ment],” “arise out of or relate to,” and “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” come into play. Id. The court finds that personal jurisdiction is authorized and fair. Id. at *7. Soon, I will be taking a look more in-depth at these factors in future posts.
Personally, Civil Procedure was one of the most interesting classes I had in my 1L. The Ford decision handed down a half-semester’s worth of studying in one neatly wrapped decision. While the Galaxy decision didn’t necessarily take advantage of the more heavy-hitting parts of Ford (e.g., expanding on the “arise out of or relate to” from Bristol-Myers Squibb, see footnote 1.), the decision used the succinctly worded descriptions of specific and personal jurisdiction as their targets for analysis.
Ford will be my quick-reference guide for personal jurisdiction for the time being!
 See Prof. Crouch’s Patently-O post about Ford here: https://patentlyo.com/patent/2021/03/montana-personal-jurisdiction.html