I am a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, and I have been writing about jurisdiction,
which, in the legal context, is the right of a court to exercise legal
authority over someone.
In my roles as a Decatur product liability lawyer and a Georgia product
liability lawyer, I often have to deal with the question of how to obtain
jurisdiction over a product manufacturer that is not located in Georgia,
but that made a product that injured my client here in Georgia. For example,
an automobile manufacturer may have made a defective car that caught fire,
or that had unintended acceleration.
In that case, I have to look at the issue of Georgia’s “minimum
contacts” with the defendant manufacturer. The point of requiring
minimum contacts is to “ensure that a defendant will not be haled
into a jurisdiction solely as a result of ‘random,’ ‘fortuitous,’
or ‘attenuated’ contacts, . . . or of the ‘unilateral
activity of another party or a third person.'”
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985) (citations omitted). If defendants
have minimum contacts with the forum state, courts reason that defendants
“should reasonably anticipate being haled into court” in the
forum state (id. at 297) so that the defendants can “structure their
primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where that conduct will
and will not render them liable to suit.”
World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980).
The issue of jurisdiction does not just apply to product liability cases.
I also may have to consider the issue of jurisdiction when I am acting
as a Henry County misfilled prescriptions lawyer (wrong prescriptions
lawyer) or as an Atlanta personal injury lawyer. Jurisdiction is a universal
problem that applies any time the defendant resides outside the forum
state (i.e., the state where the case is being filed).
In Georgia, the Georgia legislature has set out some clear guidelines about
when Georgia courts can exercise jurisdiction over non-residents. In
O.C.G.A. § 9-10-91, the legislature provided that a non-resident may establish minimum contacts
with Georgia in six situations. Said another way, a Georgia court can
exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident if the non-resident –
or his agent — has done one of six things.
The intent behind the statute is to ensure that non-residents do not get
hauled into Georgia court when they have no reason to be. Not only would
exercising the jurisdiction be unfair to the non-resident – it also
would be extremely expensive. Court cases cost the State and the local
governments money. Judges, clerks, courthouse staffs, and juries all have
to be paid. The case takes up the time and resources of all of those people.
Courthouses and their parking lots have to be built, cleaned and maintained.
In future blog entries, I will discuss the six situations in which the
Georgia courts can exercise jurisdiction over a resident of another state.
In these six circumstances, the legislature has determined that, even
if the defendant does not live in Georgia, he has enough contact with
Georgia for it to be fair for our courts to exercise jurisdiction over him.