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Kopke v. A. Hartrodt S.R.L – Case Brief Summary (Wisconsin)

In Kopke v. A. Hartrodt S.R.L., 2001 WI 99, 245 Wis. 2d 396, 629 N.W.2d 662, 666-67 (Wis. 2001), a court was presented with an analogous shipping scenario in which a Wisconsin truck driver was injured when a pallet loaded with paper fell on him while he was unloading an ocean-going container that had been negligently packed by an Italian loading company.

The Kopke court concluded that Wisconsin's exercise of personal jurisdiction complied with the limits of due process because the cargo "was introduced into the stream of commerce with the expectation that it would arrive in the forum." See id. at 675.

The Kopke court considered a stream of commerce analysis applicable because the truck driver's injuries "arose out of commercial activities and the distribution of goods in the stream of commerce" and "the facts . . . presented a 'regular course of dealing that resulted in deliveries' of multiple units of the product into the forum over a period of years."

The court determined that personal jurisdiction was proper based upon the shipper's contractual relationship with the manufacturer; loading instructions that identified the container's destination as "Neenah" or "CTI Appleton," the place of injury; damage reports demonstrating that at least 40 containers were loaded by the shipping company workers for delivery to the forum; and a regular business arrangement with the manufacturer benefitting the shipping company. See id. at 675-76.

With regard to the loading instruction identifying the container's destination, the court concluded that "these products did not randomly or fortuitously appear in Wisconsin; they were specifically intended to arrive in the forum. The injury that the truck driver suffered occurred in the forum to which the cargo containers were directed to arrive." See id. at 675.

The Kopke court concluded that these facts were sufficient to satisfy the purposeful availment requirement. The court also determined that the shipping company had sufficient minimum contacts with the forum to be held accountable if any negligence on its part in loading the cargo containers had resulted in damages. See id. at 676.