LG Chem Ltd. faces sprawling litigation over its allegedly exploring lithium-ion batteries, and the manufacturer has consistently argued it can’t be tied to any state’s jurisdiction because it’s a South Korean company that doesn’t sell lithium-ion batteries in America.
The Seoul-headquartered company says it does not authorize its batteries for use by any manufacturer or retailer of such devices, and that it only sells its batteries to product manufacturers that incorporate the necessary safety features to prevent any risk of explosion.
In Georgia, LG has used that argument to successfully exit a number of lawsuits brought in the federal Northern District, where its distribution subsidiary LG Chem America Inc. is located. But Georgia state judges are just as consistently refusing to throw out LG Chem exploding battery cases on jurisdictional grounds.
Georgia product liability attorneys say a game changer in the LG Chem litigation could be the March ruling in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, in which the U.S. Supreme Court said major manufacturers like Ford with a global reach can expect to be sued in states where they do a substantial amount of business. That strikes at the heart of LG Chem’s attacks on jurisdiction, they say.
Product liability lawyers in Georgia are closely watching to see how the state’s appeals court considers the Ford ruling in LG Chem’s appeals of orders finding Georgia state courts have jurisdiction over the company in exploding battery suits. Just a day after the Ford decision, the Georgia Court of Appeals denied LG Chem’s request for oral argument in its appeal of a jurisdictional ruling in an exploding battery case.
Both state and federal judges are increasingly wrestling with how to apply long-standing jurisdictional laws to effectively address modern issues raised by advances in global commerce and technology. As American consumers purchase products off the internet from all over the world and have them shipped to the U.S., new wrinkles emerge that don’t fit neatly into long-established case precedent.