May 19, 2011
Decision of Interest: Ninth Circuit Finds Personal Jurisdiction Over DaimlerChrysler in U.S. Lawsuit Arising From Argentina's "Dirty War"
Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Bauman v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., No. 07-15386, ___ F.3d ___, 2011 WL 1879210. The unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, rejected the argument that DaimlerChrysler was not subject to personal jurisdiction in California. It begins:
Plaintiffs-Appellants (the “plaintiffs”), twenty-two Argentinian residents, bring suit against DaimlerChrysler Aktiengesellschaft (DCAG) alleging that one of DCAG’s subsidiaries, Mercedes-Benz Argentina (MBA) collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill the plaintiffs and/or their relatives during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” Some of the plaintiffs are themselves former employees of MBA and the victims of the kidnapping, detention, and torture, while others are close relatives of MBA workers who were “disappeared” and are presumed to have been murdered. The only question before us is whether the district court had personal jurisdiction over DCAG. The district court granted DCAG’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of such jurisdiction. We conclude, however, that DCAG was subject to personal jurisdiction in California through the contacts of its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA). We hold that MBUSA was DCAG’s agent, at least for personal jurisdictional purposes, and that exercise of personal jurisdiction was reasonable under the circumstances of this case. [footnotes omitted]
The Ninth Circuit had issued an opinion in the case two years ago (from which Judge Reinhardt dissented), 579 F.3d 1088, but that opinion was vacated following the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing. 603 F.3d 1141.