Personal Jurisdiction - Ex Parte American Timber & Steel Company, Inc.
In Ex parte American Timber & Steel Company, Inc., [Ms. 1100884, Sept. 23, 2011] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2011), an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer that was owned and operated by Lewis Trucking Company and that was carrying a load of lumber for American Timber & Steel Company, Inc. collided with an Alabama Department of Corrections ("ADOC") van in Montgomery, Alabama, killing all 6 ADOC passengers. The personal representatives of the decedents ("Plaintiffs") brought wrongful death claims against various defendants, including Getloaded Corporation ("GC") and American Timber & Steel Company, Inc. ("ATSC"). GC is a website on which truckers and trucking companies can advertise that their trucks are available. ATSC advertised on GC's website that it had a load ready for transport, which ultimately led to Lewis Trucking Company ("LTC") being hired to transport the load. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged claims against GC that it "owed a duty to members of the traveling public to use reasonable care to investigate and evaluate the competence and safety record of any carrier allowed to be listed for hire" on GC's website. Plaintiffs also alleged claims against ATSC that it "owed a duty to members of the traveling public to use reasonable care to investigate and evaluate the competence and safety record of any carrier hired to transport freight." GC and ATSC petitioned for writs of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for lack of specific personal jurisdiction. After an extensive application of Ex parte DBI, Inc., 23 So. 3d 635 (Ala. 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court held: (1) that ATSC's due process rights are not violated by the exercise of jurisdiction by Alabama courts, particularly as it was reasonably foreseeable that transporting a shipment by trailer from Florida to Texas would traverse Alabama; and (2) that GC's due process rights would be violated by the exercise of jurisdiction by Alabama courts, as operating its website did not create an "expectation" that its actions would impact or create a risk "within the State of Alabama." Thus, the Alabama Supreme Court denied ATSC's petition and granted GC's petition.