Morrow & Sheppard Prevails In Appeal Against Japanese Manufacturer Fuji Seeking To Avoid Responsibility In Texas For Explosion

January 12, 2021

On November 24, 2020, the First Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Morrow & Sheppard’s client, who was severely injured by a defective transformer bushing that exploded and which was designed and manufactured by Japanese company Fuji Electric Co. Ltd.  Transformer bushings are used to generate electricity at power plants, and they should never explode.

Although Fuji knowingly supplied transformer bushings to Texas, Fuji claimed that it could not be sued in Texas for a Texas explosion that injured a Texas resident.  Fuji instead argued that it could only be sued more than 6,000 miles away in Japan, where it is headquartered.  Fuji further argued that allowing it to be sued in Texas would unjustifiably impact foreign policy and foreign relations.  A panel of three judges on the First Court of Appeals rejected Fuji’s arguments in a 38-page written decision in Cause No. 01-19-00373-CV.

The bushings supplied by Fuji have exploded more than once in Texas, and are very dangerous.  A bushing first failed in 2010, and a second bushing with the same specifications failed again in 2016.  Both incidents occurred at the Cottonwood power plant near Deweyville, Texas in Newton County.  After the 2010 explosion, a bushing flaw was found by Fuji while investigating in Texas.  Instead of revealing the flaw and the risk of additional incidents, Fuji indicated its bushings were safe for continued use.  The dangerous bushings continued in use.  In 2016, the second bushing failed and exploded and severely injured Morrow & Sheppard’s client, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and other injuries.  This all could and should have been avoided by Fuji and others.

Morrow & Sheppard filed suit against Fuji and others in the 234th District Court of Harris County, Texas.  Fuji sought to be dismissed from the case, arguing it did not have minimum contacts with Texas and arguing that it would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice for Fuji to be held accountable by a Texas court.  The trial court denied Fuji’s attempt to be dismissed from the case.  Fuji appealed.

The First Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling and found that Fuji had sufficient contacts to be sued in Texas.  The court of appeals found that Fuji intended to serve the market in Texas.  The court of appeals found that Fuji made representations in Texas regarding the first bushing explosion, which further subjected Fuji to a lawsuit in Texas.  The court of appeals further found that Fuji’s contacts with Texas were not random, fortuitous, or attenuated.  The court of appeals found that Fuji could and should have anticipated being called into a Texas court.  The court of appeals found that Fuji’s allegation that this lawsuit would impact foreign policy and foreign relations was not supported by any evidence.

The appellate decision was issued by Justices Keyes, Lloyd, and Hightower.

Morrow & Sheppard will continue to seek justice for its clients, no matter where or how far those responsible are.

If you or a loved one has been injured or tragically killed while working at a plant or refinery, a top-rated Houston industrial accident attorney at Morrow & Sheppard can help. Please call us at 800-489-2216 for a free, confidential consultation.

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