Abstract

With the increase of foreign trade, there has also been an increase in the number of foreign manufacturers and distributors involved in product liability litigation in the United States. In many cases, the products from these foreign manufacturers and distributors reach the forum states through the stream of commerce, and are distributed to the customers by regional distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Therefore, in many product liability cases where defective products from these foreign manufacturers and distributors cause injuries to people in the United States, those foreign companies do not have a direct relationship with the forum states. In these cases, it is unclear whether these foreign companies will be subject to the jurisdiction of the forum states. The extent and reach of the forum states’ judicial powers are governed by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. courts have developed and refined the concept of “minimum contacts,” or contacts between the defendant and forum state which are required for the forum state to exercise personal jurisdiction, through a series of court decisions in order to assure due process for these foreign defendants. This paper examines the origin and development of the minimum contacts concept through a U.S. case study, and then in the international setting through the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Aashi case, and post-Aashi cases. This paper also reviews foreign countries’ approaches to the foreign defendant product liability problem.