June 2020
Missouri Supreme Court finds no personal jurisdiction in e-cigarette case
Thomas Golson

The Missouri Supreme Court held that personal injury plaintiffs will face great difficulty in subjecting foreign lithium-ion battery manufacturers to suit in Missouri courts on claims relating to injuries sustained from e-cigarettes and vape devices. In State ex rel. LG Chem, LTD. V. The Honorable Nancy Watkins Laughlin, 599 S.W.3d 899, (Mo. banc 2020) the Missouri Supreme Court held that LG Chem, a South Korean company manufacturing certain lithium-ion batteries, was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri courts as it did not have minimum contacts with the state of Missouri. In the underlying case, plaintiff purchased an LG Chem battery from a Missouri retailer for use with plaintiff's e-cigarette. Plaintiff alleged that the battery thereafter exploded in his pocket, causing severe burn injuries. Plaintiff attempted to sue LG Chem under a products liability theory. Plaintiff argued that LG Chem could be sued in Missouri because it manufactured a product that was eventually distributed and caused injury in Missouri. However, the Missouri Supreme Court noted that it was not LG Chem that distributed its batteries in Missouri, it was a third-party distributor that bought the batteries from LG Chem and then distributed them into Missouri. The Missouri Supreme Court held that LG Chem was not subject to suit in Missouri with respect to injury caused by its battery unless LG Chem targeted Missouri in getting the battery into the state. Accordingly, where a foreign manufacturer’s only connection to Missouri is the sale of the foreign manufacturer’s product by a third-party distributor, Missouri courts lack personal jurisdiction over the foreign manufacturer.