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Personal Jurisdiction–Can You Sue The Defendant In Tennessee?


So you know who caused your injury, and you want to sue for damages that their negligence has caused you. Can you sue them?

That question is usually interpreted as “did this defendant do something wrong that would allow me to sue them?” But there’s another question that sometimes needs to be asked: “Can I sue this defendant here in Tennessee?” We’re talking about personal jurisdiction, and in some injury cases, it can become a major problem.

What is Jurisdiction?

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just sue any company or business in any court. The person, company or business you are suing must have some contact with the state of Tennessee in order for a Tennessee court to be able to hear a case, and ultimately, enter a judgment against that defendant.

This is called jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is often easy. Any person driving a car in Tennessee can be sued in Tennessee. Any brick and mortar store in the state can be sued here. Any business that sells to, advertises to, or does business with Tennessee citizens can be sued in Tennessee.

Suing Far Away Defendants

But sometimes, the analysis is not so easy. We live in a global world, where products can be had from anywhere, and where some products have other products in them that are made in other countries. Those companies may not have any direct connection with Tennessee.

For example, let’s say that you are burned when an ATV flips, and the seats catch fire. You sue the ATV manufacturer, who says that the cause of your burns is actually the manufacturer of the seats, which are made with a highly flammable material.

That company—the one that made the flammable seats—never sold the product to you. They never did business in Tennessee or anticipated having their product in Tennessee. They only did business with the ATV manufacturer. If you sue them, there’s a good chance they may argue that it isn’t fair to drag them into a Tennessee court and to have a Tennessee court adjudicate their rights.

What Courts Look For

As a general rule, courts will ask what contact a company has with the state, and whether it is foreseeable that the company could have its products used and sold in the State of Tennessee.

Is it foreseeable that the business could be sued in Tennessee? If so, it will be fair to sue them there. Some courts will require that a Defendant purposely target the state—that is, that it advertises or sells or does business with Tennessee businesses or residents.

Courts will also look at the burden on the defendant in being sued in Tennessee—but that’s not determinative. Just the fact that it is difficult for a defendant to be sued in Tennessee won’t mean that the defendant cannot be sued here.

Call the Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis Burnette, PLLC, today to help see who may be responsible for your injuries.



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