During 2014, 9 million of the 16 million new vehicles sold in this country were made by foreign automobile manufactures. Following this trend, General Motors (GM) announced last month that its Buick SUV would be manufactured by its Chinese subsidiary. By 2019, both Ford and Fiat Chrysler will make all of their small and mid-sized cars at their Mexican subsidiaries.
While this may be good or bad, lawyers in our firm are seeing a troubling trend with some of our cases and others around the country that involve defective automobiles and products manufactured by these foreign manufacturers. Despite deriving substantial profits from the vehicles they make for the sole purpose of being sold in Alabama and in other states, foreign manufacturers are trying hard to be dismissed from cases in American courts involving their defective products, arguing that our Courts do not have jurisdiction over them.
One example of this alarming issue is one of our cases in which we represent a young man in the military. Our client was a passenger in a 2003 GM pickup truck that rolled over. During the rollover, the truck’s weak roof crushed downward causing our client to be paralyzed from the neck down. The pickup truck was made by General Motors’ Canadian subsidiary General Motors of Canada specifically for sale in the United States, including Alabama. After a substantial amount of discovery, General Motors of Canada filed a motion in which it sought to be dismissed, claiming it was not subject to the jurisdiction of Alabama because it did not have any offices or presence in Alabama. General Motors of Canada sought immunity despite making the pickup truck specifically for sale in the United States, including Alabama, and despite making almost 90 percent of its profits from the sale of its vehicles in the United States.
Whether General Motors of Canada will avoid its responsibility is now being decided by our Courts. The impact of our client’s case on consumers in Alabama and across this country is enormous. More and more of our products, including automobiles, are made by foreign manufactures that seek and do derive a substantial benefit from the sale of products in Alabama and other states. However, if our courts will not exercise power over them when they make a defective product that injures or kills, then our right to justice will be greatly affected. In addition, other foreign manufacturers will follow suit in seeking immunity from the power of our Courts and depriving those they injure of their day in Court.
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