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CARLYLE WILLIAMS, ET UX. v. TAYLOR MACHINERY

JULY 13, 1988

CARLYLE WILLIAMS, ET UX.
v.
TAYLOR MACHINERY, INC.



BEFORE DAN LEE, SULLIVAN AND ANDERSON

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This is an appeal from a ruling of the Circuit Court of Lee County granting a directed verdict to defendant/appellee Taylor Machinery, Inc. in a personal injury action.

Carlyle Williams lives in Crockett County, Tennessee; he worked for the Highway Department in neighboring Haywood County. His job was to drive a bulldozer and compress garbage at the county landfill near Brownsville. In 1980, the department decided to buy a new Caterpillar compactor, so it contacted Taylor Machinery (which handled Caterpillar machines) to arrange a demonstration of the Caterpillar 826B model.

 On December 11, 1980, the new machine was brought to the landfill by Taylor's employee, Dale Elley. The salesman, knowing that Williams was the usual operator, suggested that he step onto the machine while Elley explained its workings. Williams stood on a platform on the side of the machine, while Elley stayed inside the enclosed cab. After explaining the mechanisms, Elley suddenly started the machine and drove it up a slope of garbage with Williams still clinging to the

 outside. After Elley had driven around the garbage dump for awhile, he ran into a soft spot and the compactor began to tilt towards the side to which Williams was clinging. As Elley struggled to right the machine, Williams was seen to slump down, whereupon several bystanders signaled Elley to stop. It was discovered that Williams' eyes had rolled back, he had spittle running from his mouth, and his hands had to be pried loose from the guardrail. Williams was taken to the emergency room at the hospital in Brownsville, where the attending physician diagnosed him as having suffered a stroke probably brought on by fear. Since the accident Williams has only partially recovered. He is able to walk and speak with difficulty, but cannot feed himself or read. He is totally disabled.

 On June 28, 1982, Williams filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Lee County, alleging that Elley was guilty of negligence in failure to operate the trash compactor with reasonable care, and that Taylor Machinery was vicariously liable for the actions of its employee. As noted above, Williams is a Tennessee resident. Dale Elley lives in Memphis, TN. Taylor Machinery is a Tennessee corporation, legally qualified to do business in Mississippi. It does, in fact, do business in Mississippi on a regular basis; it is undisputed that it maintains a business office in Tupelo.

 On defense motion, Dale Elley was dismissed from the action for lack of personal jurisdiction; Taylor Machinery defended the action alone. The first trial resulted in a mistrial. A new jury was empaneled and trial was held in the Circuit Court of Lee County on May 30, 1985. At the conclusion of the plaintiff's proof and on motion of the defendant, the trial judge granted a directed verdict in favor of Taylor Machinery, giving his opinion that under Tennessee law the damage sustained by Williams was not sufficiently foreseeable to be compensable. Williams has appealed the dismissal, and Taylor Machinery has cross-appealed on several grounds.

 LAW

 CROSS ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. I: THE ACTION AGAINST TAYLOR MACHINERY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSED FOR LACK OF IN PERSONAM JURISDICTION.

 In order for the state court to assert personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, two conditions must be met: There must be a statute conferring such jurisdiction, and the exercise of such jurisdiction must comport with the requirements of the due process clause of

 the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as laid down in the famous case of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95, 102 (1945), and its progeny. A state asserting personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant must establish that he has" certain minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. "

 Taylor Machinery asserts that it lacks such minimum contacts. Although it is not disputed that Taylor Machinery does business in a systematic fashion in Mississippi, it seems to argue that because the cause of action did not accrue in Mississippi, the due process clause forbids personal jurisdiction over Taylor Machinery in this case.

 No court has ever imposed such a requirement. In fact, the Supreme Court has held expressly to the contrary. It said:

 Even if the cause of action does not arise out of or relate to the foreign corporation's activities in the forum state, due process is not offended by a state subjecting the corporation to its in personam jurisdiction when there are sufficient contacts between the state and the corporation. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A., v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S. Ct. 1868, 1872, 80 L.Ed. 2d 404, 411 (1984). See also, Perkins v. Banquet Consolidated Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 72 S. ...


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