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Collyn Peddie
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The Brief Fairy Speaks!

This blog will post information on new cases and trends involving issues that are of concern to lawyers in general and me in particular. It is named for an imaginary creature, like Bigfoot or the Tooth Fairy, that some lawyers believe delivers 25-page briefs by morning without requiring that an appellate lawyer lose a night's sleep.

January 14, 2011

Oral argument in Goodyear Luxembourg v. Brown, No. 10-76, took place on Tuesday, January 11.  En banc Pennsylvania Superior Court, in Wright v. Aventis Pasteur, finds Vaccine Act does not preempt all design defect claims.

What a tremendous experience! I argued the Goodyear case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday with a cheering section of almost 20 lifelong friends watching.

Three foreign subsidiaries of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company challenged a ruling by the courts in North Carolina that these families may sue them in North Carolina, their home state, for fatal injuries inflicted by those subsidiaries' products on Matt Helms and Julian Brown, their thirteen-year-old sons, in France. They boys were killed in a bus accident that resulted from a tire failure.

The subsidiaries claim that they merely placed their products in the so-called stream of commerce and some ended up in North Carolina.  They, therefore, contend that they had insufficient contact with the state of North Carolina to justify the assertion of jurisdiction over them for injuries that did not occur in North Carolina. In truth, however, the subsidiaries actively participate in a Goodyear intra-corporate enterprise with deep roots in North Carolina and sell tens of thousands of tires through that enterprise. That was the focus on the North Carolina Court of Appeals' decision. 

 As expected, the questioning was tough. We are, after all, trying to do what has only been done once in the Court's jurisprudence and we had the government against us to boot.  The Court, however, will need to wrestle with how it insures that the law keeps up with novel corporate forms.  In this case, we argued that Goodyear had essentially treated its foreign subisidiaries here as captive divisions of the American parent. Allowing North Carolina to assert jurisdiction, therefore, did not violate due process.  We expect a decision in the late spring.

The Court has not addressed questions of "general jurisdiction" such as this in almost 25 years so this will be an important case. Moreover, the stakes are high. The Solicitor General, who has filed a brief for Petitioners in the case and will argue as well, contends that upholding the lower court ruling will damage U.S. trade. We contend that it will encourage outsourcing of manufacturing to foreign subsidiaries who will seek to avoid the jurisdiction of U.S. Courts. The U.S. has already lost 7 tire manufacturers to foreign countries.  

Stay tuned.  Check out the briefs at SCOTUSBLOG or listen to the audio of the oral argument at the supreme court's website.

The same day, the en banc Pennsylvania Superior Court held in Wright that the Vaccine Act does not preempt all design defect claims, precisely the issue before the USSC in Bruesewitz. I briefed and argued the case in the spring just before the Court granted cert. in Bruesewitz.  Let us hope that it is an omen. 




























Legal Stylings

This blog is devoted to the art of good legal writing and, in particular, to the means by which it is rendered rich and delightful, no matter its subject.  It will post tips for making your legal writing better or more interesting,  any particularly wonderful passages from briefs, cases, or other legal writing I come across and think worth sharing or that you send to me.  In addition, it may, on occasion, post a "greatest hit" from a Judge John R. Brown or an Irving Goldberg. 

This is my all time favorite Brown, which begins -  

This case presents a vicious duel,
Between the U.S. of A. and defendant

Seeking a license for oil importation,
VenFuel submitted its application.

It failed to attach a relevant letter,
And none can deny, it should have known

Yet the only issue this case is about,
Is whether a crime was committed beyond
reasonable doubt.

VenFuel was convicted of fraudulent

By the Trial Court's finding of adequate

We think it likely that fraud took place,
But materiality was not shown in this case.

So while the Government will no doubt
be annoyed,

We declare the conviction null and void.












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