BEAUMONT – The Ninth Court of Appeals has agreed to hear oral arguments in a case questioning whether a Texas state court truly has jurisdiction over a lawsuit brought by Mexican Nationals over a fatal Explorer rollover incident that occurred in Mexico.

In February 2014, the family of the late Rafael Torres Cardenas filed suit against the driver of the Explorer, Antonio Lopez Espinoza, the vehicle’s manufacture, Ford Motor, and manufacturer of the SUV’s tires, Bridgestone, in Jefferson County District Court.

According to court records, on Jan. 20, 2006, defendant Espinosa was speeding in Nuevo Leon, Mexico when the tread separated on a Bridgestone tire on his 1995 Ford Explorer. The Explorer ran off the road, knocked down a barbed-wire fence, and overturned.

Cardenas—a passenger in the Explorer and a Mexican citizen and resident—was killed. The Explorer was both designed and manufactured outside of Texas and the Bridgestone tire, meanwhile, was manufactured in Oklahoma and designed in Ohio.

Despite the special appearance issues raised by Ford and Bridgestone, a trial court found the companies were subject to general jurisdiction in Texas because they, in addition to selling products to the Texas market, also have offices and bank accounts in the state.

On appeal, Ford and Bridgestone cite two U.S. Supreme Court cases, Goodyear v. Brown and Daimler v. Bauman, and argue:

- The plaintiffs did not allege or prove any exceptional circumstances that would make Ford and Bridgestone at home in Texas;

- Second, general jurisdiction under Goodyear and Daimler requires Plaintiffs to allege or prove not just the total number of contacts that Ford and Bridgestone have with Texas, but also to compare those contacts to the ones that Ford and Bridgestone have elsewhere; and

- Finally, before and after Daimler and Goodyear, the courts of appeals recognized that having offices and bank accounts in a state are not enough to subject a company to general jurisdiction here. Both, rather, are only one consideration in the general-jurisdiction analysis—and the general-jurisdiction analysis demands more than plaintiffs have alleged and proved.

This is the third lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs, court records show.

The first suit was filed in Jefferson County and transferred to a multidistrict litigation pretrial judge, where it was dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds. The second suit was filed in Mexico, where the courts declined to exercise jurisdiction.

On Dec. 22 the Ninth Court set oral arguments for March 2.

The plaintiffs, seeking damages in excess of $1 million, contend the tire was defective and unreasonably dangerous and the Ford Explorer was defectively designed and marketed.

They are represented by David E. Harris of Sico, White, Hoelscher Harris & Braugh LLP and Raymond L. Thomas of Kittleman Thomas PLLC.

Bridgestone is represented by Douglas Pritchett Jr. and Christopher Trent, attorneys for the Houston law firm Johnson, Trent & Taylor.

Ford is represented in part by William Mennucci, attorney for the Austin law firm Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons.

Jefferson County District Court case No. A195-335

Appeals case No. 09-16-00280-CV

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