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Swimming Up the Stream of Commerce: How Plaintiffs in Products Liability Litigation Are Disadvantaged By Current Personal Jurisdiction Doctrine

The growth of e-commerce has facilitated an increasing number of products’ travel, frequently across state and international lines. This development has subsequently increased litigation between parties who are of diverse residencies. These disputes have challenged the fundamental territorial principles that established early personal jurisdiction doctrine. Moreover, unprecedented corporate expansion—both geographically and economically—has created an environment that has outgrown a doctrine focused on protecting defendants’ rights. As courts are beginning to reform their analysis in products liability litigation towards finding Amazon and others like it strictly liable for injuries caused by products sold on their sites, Amazon will have to find another way out, likely through challenging the presiding court’s adjudicatory authority.

This Comment will evaluate whether the Supreme Court of the United States’ interpretation of personal jurisdiction has progressed at the necessary speed to adequately address the issues arising out of Americans’ dependence on Amazon. More generally, it will look at the implications of the Supreme Court’s current understanding of personal jurisdiction and assess whether the current state of the doctrine is sheltering corporations behind new types of business models. By looking specifically at products liability litigation involving goods sold on Amazon, it will conclude that the expansion of e-commerce has challenged the adequacy of current approaches to personal jurisdiction and products liability disputes. The solution to the issues caused by this stagnant nature of law requires simultaneous specific personal jurisdiction and products liability doctrinal reform.


Lily Smith

J.D. Candidate, 2022, University of Richmond School of Law

B.A., 2019, Fordham University