(CN) – Two North Carolina couples whose 13-year-old sons were killed in a bus accident in France cannot sue the foreign subsidiaries of Goodyear Tire and Rubber that produced an allegedly defective tire, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
A North Carolina appeals court had ruled otherwise, finding that some of the tires made abroad by Goodyear’s foreign subsidiaries did in fact reach North Carolina through “the stream of commerce.” But the high court rejected this tenuous link.
“A connection so limited between the forum and the foreign corporation, we hold, is an inadequate basis for the exercise of general jurisdiction,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the unanimous court. “Such a connection does not establish the ‘continuous and systematic’ affiliation necessary to empower North Carolina courts to entertain claims unrelated to the foreign corporation’s contacts with the State.
The young victims, Julian Brown and Matthew Helms, were on the bus heading to Charles de Gaulle Airport with their soccer team when it overturned on the road outside Paris on April 18, 2004.
Evidence later put the blame on a defective tire manufactured in Turkey at the plant of a foreign Goodyear subsidiary.
Brown and Helms’ parents sued Ohio-based Goodyear USA as well as three subsidiaries based, respectively, in Turkey, France and Luxembourg.
Those subsidiaries lost their fight to toss the charges on the basis of jurisdiction, but the Supreme Court reversed Monday.
“Because the episode-in-suit, the bus accident, occurred in France, and the tire alleged to have caused the accident was manufactured and sold abroad, North Carolina courts lacked specific jurisdiction to adjudicate the controversy,” Ginsburg wrote, adding that the North Carolina Court of Appeals even acknowledged that fact before making its roundabout finding.
The state Supreme Court had denied discretionary review, according to the 14-page ruling.