A Texas federal judge ruled that a Korean unit of LG Electronics can’t use a jurisdictional argument to escape a suit alleging an exploding smartphone ended a professional basketball player’s career, saying the company should have known its product would end up in Texas.
U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant denied a bid by LG Chem LTD of Korea to dismiss the suit Khouraichi Thiam filed two years ago, saying that despite the company’s status as a foreign defendant, Thiam has alleged enough of a tie to the Lone Star State for the court to claim jurisdiction.
Thiam, who played college ball at Mars Hill University and who had been playing professionally overseas since graduating in 2013, said he was holding his LG K20 Plus phone in his right hand in May 2019 when it suddenly exploded.
The explosion resulted in an electrical burn, swelling of muscles, nerve damage, a chemical burn and the inability to fully extend his fingers. Those injuries ended his professional basketball career and were caused by defective design, inadequate warning and the “unreasonably dangerous character” of the phone.
In addition to LG Chem, Thiam names LG, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS in the complaint.
LG Chem had argued it is not licensed or registered to do business in Texas and has no agents, officers or employees in the state, and therefore does not have enough contacts for the court to exercise jurisdiction.
Judge Mazzant disagreed, finding that the stream-of-commerce doctrine holds that LG Chem’s manufacture of batteries for the phones and their eventual sale in Texas give the court jurisdiction, as it must have known that some of its products would be sold there.
That LG Chem did not sell the batteries in the state does not determine jurisdiction, the judge wrote, noting that LG Chem sold its batteries to manufacturers which, in turn, sold millions of phones in the U.S. through more than 800 stores in Texas alone.