THE STATE OF
Norman Jeffrey Cockrell, as Guardian ad litem for Ryan Jeffrey Cockrell, Appellant,
Hillerich & Bradsby Company d/b/a Louisville Slugger, James A. Sherwood, University of Massachusetts at Lowell Baseball Research Center, the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the South Carolina High School League, Defendants,
of whom James A. Sherwood and
University of Massachusetts at Lowell Baseball Research Center are Respondents.
Appeal From Richland County
J. Ernest Kinard, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 25964
Heard February 15, 2005 - Filed April 4, 2005
Charles W. Whetstone, Jr., of James C. Anders, P.A., of Columbia; J. Kendall Few, of J. Kendall Few, P.A., of Greer; and Stephen D. Baggett and Kenneth W. Poston, both of McDonald, Patrick, Tinsley, Baggett & Poston, of Greenwood, for Appellant.
C. Mitchell Brown, of
Columbia, and Elizabeth M. McMillan, of Greenville, both of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, L.L.P., for Respondents.
JUSTICE WALLER: This is a products liability and negligence case in which the circuit court granted the respondents’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm.
On March 16, 2002, Ryan Cockrell, a thirteen-year old seventh grader, was pitching in a
The appellant, Ryan’s father, brought this action alleging products liability, negligence, breach of warranties, and fraudulent concealment against Hillerich; negligence and negligent misrepresentation against the National Federation of High Schools; and negligence against the South Carolina High School League. The appellant also alleges negligence, recklessness, and fraudulent concealment against the respondents. The respondents filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The circuit court granted the respondents’ motion and the appellant appeals.
Did the circuit court err in granting the respondents’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction?
Typically, aluminum bats substantially outperform traditional wooden bats and other metal bats. However, aluminum bats also increase the risk to pitchers and other infield players because the high speed of the balls batted off these bats decreases these players’ reaction time. The NCAA developed a maximum-batted exit speed and certain weight and length requirements for aluminum bats and announced that the respondents would test and certify that all aluminum bat models meet these requirements.
After the respondents have certified a bat model, a permanent certification mark must be clearly displayed on the barrel end of each bat. Further, the NCAA rules specifically state: “The manufacturer may use the certification mark in descriptive materials (such as catalogs) to identify bats that comply with this testing standard, but may make no other use of the mark. Use of the certification mark to advertise or promote the sale or distribution of bats is expressly prohibited.” We note the certification of a bat means simply it has passed the standards which the NCAA has set forth. It does not mean the bat has been otherwise tested for safety.
Apparently, some aluminum bats manufactured by Hillerich pass the NCAA certification tests in the lab but not in the field because in practice the bats swing faster. The respondent Sherwood recognized this as evidenced by his February 7, 2000 memo to the NCAA and his presentation to the annual meeting of the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association on February 20, 2000. Sherwood sought reassurance that his certification of these bats would not render him liable and action from the NCAA to close the loopholes. This information was widely disseminated throughout numerous media reports and the NCAA later changed its rules in an attempt to close any loopholes.
II. Personal Jurisdiction
The circuit court granted the respondents’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction finding that the respondents did not have sufficient minimum contacts with
Sherwood is a resident of
The question of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is one which must be resolved upon the facts of each particular case. Engineered Prods. v.
Specific jurisdiction over a cause of action arising from a defendant's contacts with the state is granted pursuant to the long arm statute. S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-803 (2003). South Carolina’s long-arm statute, which includes the power to exercise personal jurisdiction over causes of action arising from tortious injuries in South Carolina, has been construed to extend to the outer limits of the due process clause. Meyer v. Paschal, 330 S.C. 175, 498 S.E.2d 635 (1998). Because
Due process requires that there exist minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum state such that maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471
Under the fairness prong, the court must consider: (1) the duration of the activity of the nonresident within the state; (2) the character and circumstances of the commission of the nonresident's acts; (3) the inconvenience resulting to the parties by conferring or refusing to confer jurisdiction over the nonresident; and (4) the State's interest in exercising jurisdiction.
The due process requirements must be met as to each defendant and thus the Court is to assess individually each defendant's contacts with
The appellant alleges the following facts support finding the respondents purposefully availed themselves of the laws of
The Court of Appeals recently held that an individual does not "purposefully avail" himself of the laws of this State merely by virtue of having authored a single literary work on a topic of national interest. Moosally v. W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 358 S.C. 320, 594 S.E.2d 878 (Ct. App. 2004). In Moosally, the explosion of the battleship USS IOWA was the subject of two CBS 60 Minutes programs and subsequently a book was written by one of the programs’ producers. The plaintiffs brought a libel suit alleging the defendants incorrectly placed the blame for the explosion on them. The defendants were the
The book had been distributed throughout the
The Court of Appeals also found that personal jurisdiction did not exist for the interviewee, as "merely providing information to an author about an event that did not occur in South Carolina" was not sufficient to "purposefully avail" himself of South Carolina's laws or establish minimum contacts.
The Court of Appeals found that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over the author, because "merely . . . having authored a single literary work on a topic of national interest" was not enough to meet the power prong of the due process analysis.
The Court of Appeals concluded that
The circuit court also found there was no basis for exercising general jurisdiction over the respondents. We agree. A court may assert general jurisdiction if the defendant has an "enduring relationship" with the forum state. See S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-802 (2003). General jurisdiction attaches even when the nonresident defendant's contacts with the forum state are not directly related to the cause of action, if the defendant's contacts are both "continuous and systematic." Helicopteros Nacionales, 466
In conclusion, we hold the respondents do not have the minimum contacts with
TOAL, C.J., MOORE and BURNETT, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in result only.
In computing this figure, the appellant included $600,000 which the respondents received from the National Baseball League (NBL), the NCAA, and the National Federation in the form of grants. However, these grants were not only for testing bats - the NBL also commissioned the respondents to test baseballs which have nothing to do with this lawsuit.
We note that this case was decided after the circuit court ruled on the respondents’ motion to dismiss.