A Montana federal district court has found contacts with the forum state merely "relating to" the cause of action are sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over a foreign helicopter manufacturer. Thomas Duffy died when the K-Max helicopter he was piloting on an aerial firefighting mission crashed in Oregon. Mr. Duffy's estate and his employer, Central Copters, Inc., commenced a product liability action against the helicopter manufacturer, claiming that the crash was caused by a defective rotor flap.

Kaman moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction in Montana. The crux of Kaman's argument was that none of its forum contacts were causally related to plaintiffs' claims. In support, it asserted that the company did not sell the accident helicopter to Central Copters. Instead, Central Copters purchased the accident helicopter from the U.S. State Department in 2007. Furthermore, Central Copters is Kaman's only customer in Montana, and its sales to Central Copters comprise only 1% of all global K-Max sales.

Since 1997, however, Kaman's marketing manager visited Montana several times to promote K-Max model helicopters to Central Copters and otherwise to assist Central Copters with its purchases of K-Max helicopters from third-parties. Kaman sent technicians to Montana on several occasions to assist and train Central Copters' personnel regarding K-Max inspections and service. Central Helicopters is one of only sixteen K-Max operators in the world. With respect to the accident helicopter, although Kaman did not sell it to Central Copters, Kaman did transport it to Montana for Central Copters in exchange for $50,000 USD.

Citing the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S. Ct. 1017, 1026 (2021), the district court explained that a "causation-only" approach to specific personal jurisdiction is not supported by judicial precedent. Instead, due process is satisfied where an action arises out of or relates to a defendant's contact with the forum state. The district court found that plaintiffs' claims sufficiently relate to Kaman's contact with Montana even though, unlike in Ford, the accident occurred outside the forum state. Accordingly, the court denied Kaman's motion.

Duffy v. Kaman Aerospace Corporation, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42735 (D. Mont. Mar. 10, 2022).

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