Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Case of the Day: Gov't of the U.S. Virgin Islands v. Takata Corp., 2017 V.I. LEXIS 125 (V.I. Super. Ct. June 19, 2017)


The defendants are Japanese air bag manufacturers that supply air bags for Honda cars. Government of U.S. Virgin Islands sought injunction and damages for the defendants' role in equipping cars with defective air bags. Defendants moved to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.

The court found it had personal jurisdiction, as the defendants targeted USVI as "one of the four 'priority regions' that experience 'higher levels of heat and absolute humidity'" and derived substantial revenue from the territory. The court also found the plaintiff established a prima facie case for a violation of CICO, USVI's equivalent of RICO, as well as USVI's Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and common law claims of public nuisance. The court further held the claims were not preempted by the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act.


A case from U.S. Virgin Islands! According to the court's website, the Superior Court is the general jurisdiction trial court, whose decisions may be appealed to the USVI Supreme Court made up of three justices. As international litigators, you never know what jurisdiction your next litigation may take you.

The case itself is also interesting. The analysis is fulsome and sophisticated, but also slightly off-kilter with the prevailing trend in federal litigation of declining jurisdiction for foreign defendants. Perhaps it helped that the plaintiff was the government.  Also interesting is that the Honda Motor Company joined the government as one of the plaintiffs--a sound strategy to piggyback off the deference that the court may show to the government as the plaintiff.

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