Asahi Metal Indus. v. Superior Court
480 U.S. 102 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Asahi Metal Indus. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987)

Asahi Metal Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Superior Ct. of California

No. 85-693

Argued November 5, 1986

Decided February 24, 1987

480 U.S. 102

Syllabus

Petitioner manufactures tire valve assemblies in Japan and sells them to several tire manufacturers, including Cheng Shin Rubber Industrial Co. (Cheng Shin). The sales to Cheng Shin, which amounted to at least 100,000 assemblies annually from 1978 to 1982, took place in Taiwan, to which the assemblies were shipped from Japan. Cheng Shin incorporates the assemblies into its finished tires, which it sells throughout the world, including the United States, where 20 percent of its sales take place in California. Affidavits indicated that petitioner was aware that tires incorporating its assemblies would end up in California, but, on the other hand, that it never contemplated that its sales to Cheng Shin in Taiwan would subject it to lawsuits in California. Nevertheless, in 1979, a product liability suit was brought in California Superior Court arising from a motorcycle accident allegedly caused by defects in a tire manufactured by Cheng Shin, which in turn filed a cross-complaint seeking indemnification from petitioner. Although the main suit was eventually settled and dismissed, the Superior Court denied petitioner's motion to quash the summons issued against it. The State Court of Appeal then ordered that the summons be quashed, but the State Supreme Court reversed, finding that petitioner's intentional act of placing its assemblies into the stream of commerce by delivering them to Cheng Shin in Taiwan, coupled with its awareness that some of them would eventually reach California, were sufficient to support state court jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

39 Cal.3d 35, 702 P.2d 543, reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court as to Parts I and II-B, concluding that the state court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over petitioner would be unreasonable and unfair, in violation of the Due Process Clause. Pp. 480 U. S. 113-116.

(a) The burden imposed on petitioner by the exercise of state court jurisdiction would be severe, since petitioner would be required not only to traverse the distance between Japan and California, but also to submit

Page 480 U. S. 103

its dispute with Cheng Shin to a foreign judicial system. Such unique burdens should have significant weight in assessing the reasonableness of extending personal jurisdiction over national borders. Pp. 480 U. S. 113-114.

(b) The interests of Cheng Shin and the forum State in the exercise of jurisdiction over petitioner would be slight, and would be insufficient to justify the heavy burdens placed on petitioner. The only surviving question is whether a Japanese corporation should indemnify a Taiwanese corporation on the bases of a sale made in Taiwan and a shipment of goods from Japan to Taiwan. The facts do not demonstrate that it would be more convenient for Cheng Shin to litigate its claim in California, rather than in Taiwan or Japan, while California's interests are diminished by Cheng Shin's lack of a California residence and by the fact that the dispute is primarily about indemnity, rather than the safety of consumers. While the possibility of being sued in California might create an additional deterrent to petitioner's manufacture of unsafe assemblies, the same effect would result from pressures placed on petitioner by Cheng Shin, whose California sales would subject it to state tort law. Pp. 480 U. S. 114-115.

(c) The procedural and substantive policies of other nations whose interests are affected by the forum State's assertion of jurisdiction over an alien defendant must be taken into account, and great care must be exercised when considering personal jurisdiction in the international context. Although other nations' interests will differ from case to case, those interests, as well as the Federal Government's interest in its foreign relations policies, will always be best served by a careful inquiry into the reasonableness of the particular assertion of jurisdiction, and an unwillingness to find an alien defendant's serious burdens outweighed where, as here, the interests of the plaintiff and the forum State are minimal. P. 480 U. S. 115.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE POWELL, and JUSTICE SCALIA, concluded in Parts II-A and III that, even assuming, arguendo, that petitioner was aware that some of the assemblies it sold to Cheng Shin would be incorporated into tires sold in California, the facts do not establish minimum contacts sufficient to render the State's exercise of personal jurisdiction consistent with fair play and substantial justice, as required by the Due Process Clause. Since petitioner does not do business, have an office, agents, employees, or property, or advertise or solicit business in California, and since it did not create, control, or employ the distribution system that brought its assemblies to, or design them in anticipation of sales in, California, it did not engage in any action to purposely avail itself of the California market. The "substantial connection" between a defendant and the forum State necessary for a finding of minimum contacts must derive from an action purposely directed toward the forum State, and the mere placement of a product

Page 480 U. S. 104

into the stream of commerce is not such an act, even if done with an awareness that the stream will sweep the product into the forum State absent additional conduct indicating an intent to serve the forum state market. Pp. 480 U. S. 108-113, 116.

JUSTICE BRENNAN, joined by JUSTICE WHITE, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICE BLACKMUN, agreed with the Court's conclusion in Part II-B that the exercise of jurisdiction over petitioner would not comport with "fair play and substantial justice," but disagreed with Part II-A's interpretation of the stream-of-commerce theory, and with the conclusion that petitioner did not purposely avail itself of the California market. As long as a defendant is aware that the final product is being marketed in the forum State, jurisdiction premised on the placement of a product into the stream of commerce is consistent with the Due Process Clause, and no showing of additional conduct is required. Here, even though petitioner did not design or control the distribution system that carried its assemblies into California, its regular and extensive sales to a manufacturer it knew was making regular sales of the final product in California were sufficient to establish minimum contacts with California. Pp. 480 U. S. 116-121.

JUSTICE STEVENS, joined by JUSTICE WHITE and JUSTICE BLACKMUN, agreed that the California Supreme Court's judgment should be reversed for the reasons stated in Part II-B of the Court's opinion, but did not join Part II-A, for the reasons that (1) the Court's holding that the State's exercise of jurisdiction over petitioner would be "unreasonable and unfair" alone requires reversal, and renders any examination of minimum contacts unnecessary; and (2) even assuming that the "purposeful availment" test should be formulated here, Part II-A misapplies it to the facts of this case, since, in its dealings with Cheng Shin, petitioner has arguably engaged in a higher quantum of conduct than the mere placement of a product into the stream of commerce. Pp. 480 U. S. 121-122.

O'CONNOR, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Part I, the opinion of the Court with respect to Part II-B, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II-A and III, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and POWELL and SCALIA, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 480 U. S. 116. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which WHITE and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 480 U. S. 121.

Page 480 U. S. 105

Primary Holding
Personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant should be evaluated according to the following factors: the burden on the defendant, the interests of the forum state, the interests of the plaintiff in choosing the forum, efficiency concerns, and policy interests. Simply putting a product in the stream of commerce and being aware that it would reach a certain state does not by itself support jurisdiction in that state.
Facts
Zurcher, a resident of California, was injured in a motorcycle accident, and one of his friends was killed. The motorcycle had tires that were made by Cheng Shin, a Taiwanese company, and Cheng Shin used tire valve assemblies that were made by Asahi, a Japanese corporation. Cheng Shin brought Asahi into the case to seek indemnity, and Zurcher settled the underlying claim. Asahi argued that California courts did not have jurisdiction over it under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Asahi had arranged for sales to Cheng Shin in Taiwan and shipped its components to there from Japan. Asahi was not the sole supplier of these components for Cheng Shin, and it was not responsible for more than 1.5 percent of Asahi's income. Cheng Shin made about 20 percent of its American sales in California. About 20 percent of the tires in a bike shop in Solano County, where the accident happened, had the Asahi trademark on them, and these accounted for only 25 percent of the tires in the shop that were made by Cheng Shin. After the trial court denied Asahi's motion to quash, the state appellate court commanded the lower court to quash through a peremptory writ. The California Supreme Court ultimately ruled that jurisdiction over Asahi was proper because it had placed its products in the stream of commerce and should have been aware that some of them would reach California.

Opinions

Plurality

  • Sandra Day O'Connor (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
  • Antonin Scalia

The defendant must have purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business within a state for jurisdiction there to be found under a minimum contacts analysis. Consumers cannot establish jurisdiction through the unilateral action of bringing a product to the forum state. Asahi did not have any commercial activities in the state or maintain offices in the state. It was not involved with Cheng Shin's distribution networks, through which the tire came to California.

Concurrence

  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun

Jurisdiction would violate notions of fair play and substantial justice in this situation, but a manufacturer that participates in the stream of commerce should be found to have purposefully engaged in activities in a state if it is aware that its product is being marketed there.

Concurrence

  • John Paul Stevens (Author)
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun

This result could have been reached by evaluating basic fairness concerns rather than considering a minimum contacts analysis.

Case Commentary

As one of the concurrences points out, the logic of the plurality opinion is strained in suggesting that a consumer's unilateral act in bringing a product into a forum could support personal jurisdiction over a manufacturer that had no control over or expectation of that action.

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