June 2017
U.S. Supreme Court Confirms Broad Applicability of Daimler Constraints Over Assertions of General Personal Jurisdiction

Overturning the Montana Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, 581 U.S. (2017) confirmed that the due process constraints on personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants as described in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. (2014), apply to all assertions of general jurisdiction over nonresident defendants, regardless of the type of claim asserted or business enterprise sued. In particular, the Court held that a state court may not assert general personal jurisdiction over a defendant railroad that is neither incorporated nor headquartered in-state except in “exceptional” cases where the railroad’s in-state activities are “so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State.” The Federal Employers’ Liability Act, a statute governing venue and subject-matter jurisdiction of claims made by railroad employees against railroad employers for on-the-job injuries, does not provide a separate basis for personal jurisdiction or even address personal jurisdiction at all.

The decision is significant in that it both confirms the broad application of the restrictive general jurisdiction analysis set out in Daimler and reinforces the “exceptional” nature of finding general personal jurisdiction over a corporate defendant that is not incorporated nor headquartered in the jurisdiction.

It may also offer some indication of the direction of the Court’s ruling in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, Docket No. 16-466 (cert. granted Jan. 19, 2017), argued before the court on April 25, 2017, in which the Court has been asked to decide whether a plaintiff’s claims “arise out of or relate to” a defendant’s forum activities when there is no causal link between the defendant’s forum contacts and the plaintiff’s claims.

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