Tennessee Court Holds that Mexican Law Applies in Product Liability Lawsuit

by Mandy Hicks

Where do you file a product liability lawsuit?

Most of the time, the answer is simple. You file it where the actionable issue occurred. If you live in Kentucky and that’s where the accident happened, it’s easy to determine you file your lawsuit in Kentucky.

Sometimes, there are multiple possibilities for where to file a suit. If the opposing party doesn’t like the plaintiff’s choice of court, the opposing party can ask for a dismissal of the case or, in some situations, a transfer. If the plaintiff disagrees with the trial court’s order regarding jurisdiction or choice of forum, the plaintiff can file an appeal.

Once the proper court has been decided, another possible issue is that of choice of law. Typically, this question arises when an issue could possibly be resolved according to the law of two or more states. However, sometimes, the choice of law question involves the law of differing nations.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Torres v. Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC, the plaintiff was a woman who brought suit on behalf of herself, her late husband, and her late mother (all of whom were Mexican citizens), seeking compensation for damages sustained in a car crash that occurred in Mexico in 2000. According to the complaint, the crash was caused by a tire blowout and vehicle rollover. The plaintiff asserted several claims, including several theories of product liability.

In prior litigation involving the same parties, the Tennessee courts dismissed the plaintiff’s suit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The plaintiff then filed suit in Mexico, but that suit was dismissed.

When the plaintiff again filed suit in Tennessee, a dispute arose as to whether Tennessee law or Mexican law applied to the substantive issues in this case. The trial court held that Mexican law applied. The plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal, asking the appellate court to apply Tennessee law. As grounds, the plaintiff argued that Tennessee had the most significant relationship to the litigation. In response, the defendants maintained that the choice-of-law issue was resolved in the court’s 2003 opinion in the prior case or, alternatively, that Mexico had the most significant relationship to the litigation.

Decision of the Appellate Court

After considering the respective arguments of the parties, the court concluded that Mexican law would govern the substantive issues in the case. The court so held because it found that its 2003 decision regarding choice of law was entitled to preclusive effect. After so deciding, the court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff and the deceased persons were all from Mexico, the accident occurred in Mexico, and both the vehicle and the tires at issue were purchased, serviced, and maintained in Mexico.

To Talk to an Attorney About a Loved One’s Wrongful Death

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, you need to talk to an attorney about your legal rights. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Tennessee truck accident attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at 270-781-6500. Our offices are conveniently located in Bowling Green, and we serve clients throughout both Tennessee and Kentucky.

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