Won "extraordinary remedy" for Ford in Colorado Supreme Court.
Magill v. Ford Motor Co.
(Colo. Sup. Ct. 2016)
Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell attorneys represented Ford Motor Co. in a Rule 21 petition asserting that Ford is not subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado. An adverse ruling would have meant that out-of-state corporate defendants could be subject to any lawsuit in Colorado, regardless of the litigation’s connection to Colorado.
WTO attorneys Theresa Wardon and Marissa Ronk
The case arose out of a motor vehicle accident involving a Ford automobile; however, the accident did not occur in Denver, nor do any of the parties reside in Denver. For this reason, the Court secondarily concluded that the case was not properly venued in Denver, despite, as the plaintiffs asserted, the fact that Ford has a registered agent in Denver. The Court reversed the trial court on both issues and remanded the case with instructions to transfer it to an appropriate venue.
The opinion is significant for two reasons. Ford has challenged that it is subject to general jurisdiction in courts across the nation in an effort to reduce the volume of cases it faces in states other than its states of residency and ensure that the forum has a connection to the case at issue. This ruling reinforces that position. Additionally, had it stood, the trial court’s finding that the venue was proper would open the floodgates to litigation in districts where A) an incident did not occur and B) none of the in-state litigants resided. This ruling corrects for that potential consequence.
Rule 21 petitions are uniquely and narrowly designed to achieve corrections from Colorado trial courts. In 2015, fewer than 6% of petitions were successful, and the majority of these arose in criminal cases. WTO attorneys Theresa Wardon, Marissa Ronk, and Edward Stewart represented Ford in the trial court and in briefs to the Colorado Supreme Court. Sean Marotta of Hogan Lovells delivered oral arguments with support from his colleague, Jessica Ellsworth.