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October 2017: Supreme Court Victory for State Farm Insured

October 2017

In Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Lawson, No. 17-109, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 4810 (U.S. Oct. 2, 2017), we successfully represented Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., before the United States Supreme Court. Simmons, the largest sporting goods store chain in the South, is an insured of firm client State Farm Fire and Casualty Company.

On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court granted our certiorari petition for Simmons, vacated the judgment below, and remanded the case for reconsideration by the Arkansas Court of Appeals in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017). Bristol-Myers holds that specific personal jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction, such that there must be a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.

In Simmons, the plaintiff was an Arkansas resident who was seriously injured in a fall in Simmons’ Louisiana store. The plaintiff brought suit against Simmons in Arkansas state court. After the trial court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed. The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that specific personal jurisdiction over Simmons existed based on Simmons’ advertising in Arkansas, despite the facts that the plaintiff was not influenced by the advertising in deciding to visit the store and her claim was not in any way related to the advertising.

In our certiorari petition, we argued that the reliance by Arkansas Court of Appeals on Simmons’ advertising and its belief that Simmons should anticipate that Arkansas residents in general would visit its store contradicted the Supreme Court’s clear requirement in Bristol-Myers that “there must be ‘an affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State’s regulation.’” Id. at 1780 (citation omitted). This jurisdictional issue is an important one for Simmons and other corporate defendants, with numerous customers from other states.

Douglas Dunham and Ellen Quackenbos wrote the successful certiorari petition for Simmons, with guidance and input from Sheila Birnbaum. Legal assistant Ian Garrity assisted with the preparation of the petition.