Subrogation & Recovery Law Blog

Personal Jurisdiction in Oregon--Contacts May Not Be Enough

 A recent Oregon case offers a reminder that subrogating carriers need to carefully examine personal jurisdiction before pursuing an out-of-state defendant. In Robinson v. Harley Davidson Motor Company (Oregon Ct. App. 2012), Oregon resident Robinson was riding her Harley Davidson motorcycle in Idaho when she noticed a problem with the front wheel. Although she had purchased the motorcycle in Oregon, she took it to an Idaho dealer for warranty work. The next day, the wheel malfunctioned and Robinson was thrown from the motorcycle and injured.

Robinson sued the Idaho Harley dealer, among others, in Oregon state court. Although the Idaho dealer did not have a business located in Oregon, it maintained contacts there, including advertising in Oregon and selling parts, accessories and apparel to Oregon residents. Nevertheless, the Idaho dealer brought a motion to dismiss Robinson’s case, arguing that Oregon courts did not have personal jurisdiction over it.

The trial court agreed, and dismissed the Idaho dealer from Robinson’s case. In an opinion affirming the dismissal, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that “plaintiff’s claims do not arise out of or relate to defendant’s Oregon activities.” Since the Idaho dealer’s work on Robinson’s motorcycle did not take place in Oregon, the court found it was irrelevant that the dealer advertised or sold parts there.

In light of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases (such as J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro) holding foreign manufacturers are not subject to personal jurisdiction simply by placing products in the stream of commerce, Robinson v. Harley offers another example where “contacts” with a state may not be enough to create personal jurisdiction there.

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