Plaintiff Robert Nicastro sustained injury in New Jersey while using machinery manufactured by J. McIntyre Machinery, a British company. The machinery had been sold into via a scrap recycling vendor operating independent of J. McIntyre. The NJ Supreme Court held that jurisdiction was proper; J. McIntyre appealed to SCOTUS.
Questions of law
Where is the line between the “stream of commerce” argument (see Asahi and World Wide Volkswagen) and the requirement of purposeful availment established in Hanson?
Do a defendant’s actions or a defendant’s expectations control whether purposeful availment has been met?
The court overturned the New Jersey court finding, with Justice Kennedy writing for the majority opinion. The court stated that while the stream of commerce argument may provide sufficient contacts within a forum, it does not itself “amend the general rule” of personal jurisdiction. It states, “The principal inquiry in cases of this sort is whether the defendant’s activities manifest an intention to submit to the power of a sovereign.” It was not enough, the court said, that the defendant might have predicted its goods would reach a forum state.
A defendant’s actions, not expectations, control. It is also stated explicitly that these provisions apply to domestic producers. The defendant did not engage in conduct purposefully directed at New Jersey, despite agreeing that its products would end up within the United States generally and promoting distribution generally within the United States.
“None of our precedents find that a single isolated sale, even if accompanied by the kind of sales effort indicated here, is sufficient.”