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Ferens v. John Deere Co.

United States Supreme Court
494 U.S. 516 (1990)


Facts

Albert Ferens (plaintiff) lost his right hand after it became caught in a combine harvester manufactured by John Deere Co. (Deere) (defendant), a Delaware corporation. The accident occurred in Pennsylvania. After Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations expired, Ferens and his wife (plaintiff), both Pennsylvania residents, sued for warranty and contract claims in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania under diversity jurisdiction. Pennsylvania's statutes of limitations had not run for those claims. Ferens then sued for negligence and products liability in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. The Mississippi borrowing statue, as interpreted by the Mississippi Supreme Court, permitted the Ferenses to apply Pennsylvania negligence and products liability law but use the Mississippi statute of limitations, which had not yet run. Under that court's interpretation, the borrowing statute did not apply Pennsylvania's statute of limitations, because Deere was a Mississippi resident when the cause of action arose. Shortly after the Mississippi suit was filed, the Ferenses moved to transfer the case to the Western District of Pennsylvania under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Mississippi court, finding that the Pennsylvania court would be more convenient for the parties, granted the transfer. Upon transfer, the case was consolidated with Ferenses’ other case before the Western District of Pennsylvania. The court then applied the Pennsylvania statute of limitations and dismissed the Ferenses’ tort actions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed on the ground that applying Mississippi's statute of limitations violated due process, and the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The court of appeals then affirmed on the ground that the transferor court's choice-of-law rules are inapplicable where the plaintiff moves for the transfer. The Ferenses petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted.

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Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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