Discussion post

After reading Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987), please analyze the fact pattern below.

Varney plc., a British public limited company with its headquarters in Manchester, England, produces batteries used in various electronic devices. Varney plc sells its batteries to various electronic companies directly to other electric manufacture companies in the United Kingdom and via third-party distributors across the world. Varney plc does not have any offices or salespersons in the United States and has never paid taxes in any jurisdiction. However, Varney plc has a website accessible to United States citizens. But, the company’s website does not offer any products for sale to the public. Instead, the website merely provides descriptions of the company’s products and provides the company’s contact information to the public.

James Sullivan lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama as an on-line Legal Studies professor. James Sullivan previously worked as a law clerk for several federal judges and is widely considered an expert on civil litigation and personal jurisdiction. Because James Sullivan works on average for fifteen hours per day, seven days per week and because he purchases cheap laptops at a local discount store, he goes through several laptop computers per year. While James Sullivan is an expert on federal civil procedure, he possesses little or no knowledge of computers. Unknown to James Sullivan, he purchases a laptop that contains a battery manufactured by Varney plc. One day while grading a stack of case briefs submitted by his students in his "Litigation for Paralegals" course, he smells something burning. Within seconds, his computer explodes, and the explosion causes burns to James Sullivan’s hands, face, and eyes. 

After recovering from his injuries, James Sullivan does some on-line research into the battery in question. Via this research, James Sullivan discovers several internet posts describing similar explosions of laptops containing Varney plc batteries. Because he has suffered serious injuries, James Sullivan files a complaint against Varney plc. In his complaint filed in a state court in Birmingham, Alabama, James Sullivan states that Alabama possesses personal jurisdiction based on the company’s alleged products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. In response, Varney plc files a motion to dismiss, arguing that it has no contacts with the United States and that James Sullivan’s only contact with Varney plc. was the battery itself.

If you were a judge evaluating Varney plc’s motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, how would you rule on such a motion? Do you need any additional information to render a decision on such a motion? And, who bears the burden of proving personal jurisdiction?