Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, No. 20-30382 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
NYK Line, a company incorporated and headquartered in Japan, chartered a ship that collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer in Japanese territorial waters, killing seven sailors and injuring at least forty others. Two sets of plaintiffs filed suit against NYK Line: the Douglass plaintiffs are personal representatives of the seven U.S. sailors killed and the Alcide plaintiffs represent those injured in the collision and their family members.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the consolidated actions based on lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). The court first concluded that personal jurisdiction is only proper in this case if the Fifth Amendment due process test is satisfied. The court followed Patterson v. Aker Sols., Inc., 826 F.3d 231, 233 (5th Cir. 2016), and its application of Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014), in addressing whether the district court could constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over NYK Line, and agreed with the district court that it could not. Bound by the rule of orderliness, the court agreed with the district court that personal jurisdiction over NYK Line cannot be constitutionally established under existing Fifth Circuit precedent. In this case, NYK Line's contacts with the United States represent a small portion of its contacts worldwide and its American employees represent less than 1.5 percent of all employees. The court explained that, although NYK Line has considerable contacts with the United States, these are not so substantial and of such a nature that NYK Line is essentially rendered at home in the United States.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on May 3, 2021.