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Mazda To Face Lawsuit In Fatal Florida Crash

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Mazda Logo (TFP File Photo)

A divided appeals court Wednesday said Mazda Motor Corp. can face a products-liability lawsuit in Florida stemming from a fatal crash in which a Mazda vehicle burst into flames after being rear-ended.

The Japan-based company argued that it should be dismissed from the case filed by the mother of Alexandre Arrata Acevedo, who died in 2017 in Miami-Dade County.

Mazda Motor Corp. said that it was not subject to jurisdiction of Florida courts, in part, because it does not manufacture, design or sell cars in the state.

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It said such roles are played by a subsidiary and dealers.

A Miami-Dade County circuit judge rejected Mazda Motor Corp.’s motion to be dismissed from the case, and a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld that decision Wednesday.

“Although Mazda Japan (Mazda Motor Corp.) contends that the targeting of Mazda products to Florida was done solely by an American corporate subsidiary, the record before us shows Mazda Japan itself did more than simply place its vehicles in the global stream of commerce heedless of the American and Florida markets, … Mazda Japan admitted that its vehicles are ‘intended for the United States market, including Florida,’ that it designed the vehicles for that market, registered trademarks to advertise the vehicles in that market, and, from Japan, ordered recalls expressly naming Florida,” Judge Thomas Logue wrote in Wednesday’s main opinion.

Judge Norma Lindsey wrote a concurring opinion, while Judge Fleur Lobree dissented.

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“I do not believe that the evidence relied on by the plaintiff demonstrates under our current personal jurisdiction jurisprudence that Mazda Japan has purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in Florida,” Lobree wrote, “Thus, on this record, I agree with Mazda Japan’s contention that it lacks sufficient minimum contacts with Florida to comport with the constitutional standard for exercising specific jurisdiction over nonresident defendants.”

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