CAPE GIRARDEAU – A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently agreed to dismiss a product liability lawsuit connected to a fire at a Fredericktown hair salon on jurisdictional grounds.
The lawsuit stems from a fire that occurred Jan. 7, 2018, at the Gloss Roots hair salon and retail store in Fredericktown, court filings said. The store claimed the cause of the fire was an EyeVac robotic vacuum cleaner that overheated while not in use. Gloss Roots’ insurer, Allied Insurance Company of America, filed the lawsuit against vacuum manufacturer Ecovacs Robotics to cover the damage claim.
Ecovacs, which is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in California, moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri lacks personal jurisdiction.
In an opinion issued May 20, U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. agreed, saying his court does not have general jurisdiction over Ecovacs, based on the company's Delaware and California connections, and lacks specific jurisdiction because Allied’s complaint does not have a tangible connection to Ecovac’s business in Missouri.
Limbaugh also said Ecovacs did not “allege any facts regarding the selling, marketing, advertising, distributing, branding or shipping of the EyeVac by Ecovacs in Missouri.”
In his ruling, Limbaugh cited a 2011 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Viasystems v. EBM-Papst St. Georgen in which that panel held “specific personal jurisdiction can be exercised by a federal court in a diversity suit only if authorized by the forum state’s long-arm statute and permitted by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.”
Limbaugh said Missouri’s long-arm statute holds “jurisdiction extends to any cause of action arising from the transaction of business within or the commission of a tortious act within Missouri,” and that lawmakers’ objective in enacting that law was to give state courts the utmost jurisdictional power under the 14th Amendment.
Ecovacs “contends that its contacts with Missouri do not justify personal jurisdiction in this case,” Limbaugh said in his ruling. “Significantly, (Allied Insurance) did not respond to (Ecovac’s) motion to dismiss.”
Allied Insurance “alleges that (Ecovacs) engaged in the business of selling, marketing, advertising, distributing, branding and shipping robotic vacuum cleaners, and that (Ecovacs) placed the EyeVac into the stream of commerce,” Limbaugh wrote.
Ecovacs argued it does not make the EyeVac, rather that it manufactures products called Deebot and Winbot, court filingvs said.
“Although (Allied Insurance) does not refute that point, having not responded to the motion at all, the court notes that the plaintiff’s mere allegation that that defendant put the EyeVac into the stream of commerce is not sufficient to support specific jurisdiction,” Limbaugh said in his ruling.
Limbaugh said Allied Insurance’s “complaint lacks a sufficient nexus between the claims and Ecovacs’ contacts with Missouri” and dismissed the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction.