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Rascon Rodriguez v. Ford Motor Co.

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 19, 2018

GABRIEL ARTURO RASCON RODRIGUEZ, RAYITO DEL CARMEN GUTIERREZ DE RASCON; JAVIER ORTIZ TARANGO, deceased; LEE HUNT, representative of the estate of JAVIER ORTIZ TARANGO; BERTA EBILA RAMIREZ; LORENZA SUSANA ORTIZ; MARITZA BERENICE ORTIZ RAMIREZ; CARMEN TARANGO CASTRO; CRISTIAN ANTONIO ROMERO GARCIA, deceased; LEE HUNT, representative of the estate of CRISTIAN ANTONIO ROMERO GARCIA; ROBERTO ROMERO and HILDA TELLEZ, next friend of C.D.R., a minor, and C.D.R., a minor; ROBERTO ROMERO, individually; LAURO CRUZ, deceased; LEE HUNT, representative of the estate of LAURO CRUZ; ORALIA NAJERA; MARIA CONCEPTION CRUZ NAJERA, individually and as next friend of L.M.A.C., a minor; CARLOS CRUZ; OLGALIDIA CRUZ; EUFEMIO CRUZ; MIGUEL CRUZ; PERLA ALEJANDRA CRUZ; MAYRA PAMELA CRUZ; MARIA ESTHER CRUZ; AGUSTINA CRUZ; JAVIER ACOSTA RAMIREZ; BERENICE ACOSTA; JOSE JAVIER ACOSTA; JAVIER ACOSTA; ADRIAN RAMOS, individually and as next friend of R.A.R.R., a minor, A.R.R., a minor, Y.A.R.R., a minor, and A.R.R., a minor; YADIRA RUVALCABA DE RAMOS; LUIS CANSECO VAZQUEZ, individually and as next friend of G.C., a minor, and S.A.C., a minor; GUADALUPE LOPEZ; JULIA CANSECO; LUIS CANSECO; LUIS RAUL ORTEGA GABALDON; JESUS ALEJANDRO JIMENEZ ORTEGA; and ERNESTO VARGAS LOPEZ, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, and COOPER TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY, Defendants-Appellants, and FERNANDO GAYTAN BUSTOS, Defendant-Appellee, and FERNANDO GAYTAN BUSTOS, Cross-Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY and COOPER TIRE AND RUBBER COMPANY, Cross-Defendants/Appellants.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SANTA FE COUNTY Francis J. Mathew, District Judge

          Jaramillo Touchet LLC David J. Jaramillo Albuquerque, NM Touchet Law Firm, PC Maria E. Touchet Albuquerque, NM The Edwards Law Firm John B. Gsanger Gary Scott Marshall Corpus Christi, TX for Appellees Gabriel Rascon Rodriguez, et al.

          Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A. Jeffrey M. Croasdell Todd E. Rinner Albuquerque, NM Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP Sean Marotta Washington, D.C. for Appellant Ford Motor Company.

          Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP Eric R. Burris Albuquerque, NM Norton Rose Fulbright U.S. LLP Troy L. Vancil San Antonio, TX for Appellant Cooper Tire and Rubber Company.

          Law Offices of James B. Ragan James B. Ragan Corpus Christi, TX for Appellee Fernando Gaytan Bustos.

          OPINION

          FRENCH, JUDGE

         {¶1} Plaintiffs sued Ford Motor Company and Cooper Tire and Rubber Company (collectively, Defendants) for injuries sustained when their vehicle rolled over while they were traveling through New Mexico. Defendants each filed motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, which the district court denied. We granted Defendants' applications for interlocutory appeal and consolidated both appeals. Concluding that New Mexico has specific personal jurisdiction over Defendants, we affirm the district court.

         BACKGROUND

         {¶2} In August 2012, Plaintiffs, all Mexican nationals, were passengers in a 1993 Ford E-350 Super Club Wagon that was en route to Colorado from Mexico. While traveling on U.S. Highway 54 in Guadalupe County, New Mexico, "the tread peeled off the right rear tire on the vehicle." The vehicle left the road and rolled three times. Two of the occupants, Javier Ortiz Tarango and Cristian Antonio Romero, were fatally ejected from the vehicle, while occupant Lauro Cruz was rendered quadriplegic and eventually died from his injuries. Occupants Gabriel Arturo Rascon Rodriguez, Javier Acosta Ramirez, Adrian Ramos, Luis Canseco, Luis Raul Ortega Gabaldon, Jesus Alejandro Jimenez Ortega, and Ernesto Vargas Lopez all sustained injuries as a result of the crash.

         {¶3} In August 2015, Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death and personal injury complaint against Defendants as well as against Fernando Gaytan Bustos who installed the tire on the van in 2012. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. They argued that because the van and tire were not purchased in New Mexico, New Mexico had no personal jurisdiction over them. In particular, Ford argued that the Ford E-350 was not designed in New Mexico, was manufactured in Ohio, was sold first by an independent dealer located in Kentucky, and "was not serviced by any Ford independent dealer located in the State of New Mexico[.]" Moreover, at the time of the accident, the van was licensed in Mexico, and was being driven by a citizen of Mexico. Cooper argued that the tire was not designed in New Mexico and was manufactured in Cooper's Texarkana, Arkansas plant. In addition, the tire was purchased in Oklahoma, and installed on the van by Fernando Gaytan Bustos in Mexico.

         {¶4} In response, Plaintiffs provided evidence of Defendants' New Mexico contacts, which we summarize in the following paragraphs. Ford has fourteen official Ford dealerships in New Mexico. Ford also engages in marketing targeted at New Mexico consumers, including Ford sponsorship of New Mexico events such as the 2013 professional bull riding championship. Ford maintains an interactive website that allows New Mexico consumers to obtain a quote for a Ford vehicle, search inventory of Ford vehicles in stock in New Mexico, apply for credit to purchase vehicles in New Mexico, configure a Ford vehicle, and obtain a purchase price. Ford has "in-forum advertising and defense and indemnity contracts with its dealerships, " and Ford has been a frequent party in New Mexico litigation.

         {¶5}Cooper has sixty-two official Cooper tire dealers in New Mexico, and Cooper personnel travel to Cooper tire dealers "to assess the in-field performance of its tires[.]" Cooper maintains a website with an interactive tire service bulletin page providing information to New Mexico consumers about services available through Cooper dealers. Cooper's advertising targets New Mexico consumers, including via sponsorship of professional bull riding events in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cooper has appeared as a litigant in New Mexico courts.

         {¶6} After a hearing on Defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the district court entered an order denying the motions but noted that the decision "involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and an immediate appeal from this order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the ...


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