The Court of Appeals of North Carolina on September 6, 2022, ruled in favor of Jackson Walker client Safran Helicopter Engines in an appeal over whether the trial court could assert personal jurisdiction over the company.
The appeal arose from lawsuits filed against Safran Helicopter Engines and other defendants following a Duke University medical transport helicopter accident that occurred on September 8, 2017, in North Carolina. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of three crew members and one passenger who were aboard the helicopter, and alleged that the helicopter and its engines were defective in their design, manufacture, and sale.
On September 13, 2021, the Durham County Superior Court entered orders holding that the Court could maintain personal jurisdiction over Safran Helicopter Engines and co-defendant Airbus Helicopters Deutschland. Both defendants appealed.
In its appellate brief, Safran Helicopter Engines cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and argued that it never sought nor served a market in North Carolina for helicopter engines and without “purposeful availment” the trial court could not maintain personal jurisdiction in North Carolina.
In an opinion issued on September 6, 2022, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina reversed the Durham County Superior Court’s decision, finding that “Plaintiff has failed to prove a ‘causal connection,’ ‘purposeful availment,’ or activities in the forum ‘related to’ the Defendants before us in order to establish personal jurisdiction” between North Carolina and Defendants. As a result, the Court of Appeals ordered that the case be remanded for entry of dismissal of Safran Helicopter Engines.
Jackson Walker partner S. Brad Brown, with assistance from associate Justin V. Lee, successfully represented Safran Helicopter Engines in the case. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP also served as counsel for Safran Helicopter Engines.
The case is Bartlett v. Burke, No. 22-95, in the Court of Appeals of North Carolina. For more information about the case, view the Law360 article Foreign Cos. Can Exit Helicopter Crash Suit, NC Panel Says.”
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S. Brad Brown maintains a national litigation practice with an emphasis on aviation, products liability, insurance and business related matters. Brad regularly represents manufacturers, sellers and distributors in the defense of product liability claims. In handling such claims, Brad has developed extensive experience in accident reconstruction and investigation, metallurgy, biomechanics, design and manufacturing processes, and warnings. His practice has been recognized by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business since 2016 and The Best Lawyers in America since 2021.
Justin V. Lee represents a wide range of clients, including airlines and manufacturers, in partnership disputes, breach of contract claims, violations of federal and state regulations, product liability claims, and personal injury and wrongful death claims. Prior to Jackson Walker, Justin worked on the staff for a member of the United States Congress and served as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has been recognized among Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch since 2021 and as a Texas Rising Star by Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers in 2022.
Since 1887, Jackson Walker has grown from humble origins in Dallas, Texas, to become a full-fledged national firm with offices in the major markets of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, as well as East and West Texas. With about 30% of the firm’s more than 450 attorneys practicing litigation, JW has one of the largest trial practices in the Southwest and is known as the Texas choice for complex or “bet the company” litigation. Our Aviation practice group boasts a strong group of attorneys known for their solid combination of legal judgment, work ethic, and real-world experience. To explore the team’s experience handling all forms of aviation matters throughout the U.S. and in complex multistate litigation and class action matters, visit our Aviation practice page.