In the underlying claim, the children of a California decedent claimed the decedent passed away after having used the humidifier cleaning agent manufactured by a Korean maker and sold at retail outlets in California. The retail outlets cross-claimed against the manufacturer of the cleaning agent, and the manufacturer moved to quash the service of summons. The lower court granted the motion to quash.
On appeal, the court reversed. The court found that, because the defendant sold its consumer products directly to distributors based in California, the defendant had purposeful availment that subjected it to California's jurisdiction. The court distinguished the Supreme Court's Nicastro decision by holding that the defendant did not merely place its items generally in the stream of commerce, but to California retailers.
Big, important case, in many different ways! The Korean humidifier cleaner product liability issue is a really big deal, as it is the largest product liability case that South Korea has ever faced--it is their version of asbestos litigation.
Then there is the California court's willingness to give some life back to the "stream of commerce" theory of personal jurisdiction. If one looks carefully at any fact pattern in which a foreign manufacturer places its products in the United States, it would not be very difficult to create a factual narrative that distinguishes Nicastro and finds along the lines of this case. Would be interesting to see if the California Supreme Court will take on this case.
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