Goodyear Dunlop: A Welcome Refinement of the Language of General Personal Jurisdiction
James R. Pielemeier
Hamline University School of Law
July 15, 2012
Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2012
In its 2011 decision in Goodyear Dunlop Tires v. Brown, the United States Supreme Court directly addressed the constitutional permissibility of general personal jurisdiction for only the third time since its landmark personal jurisdiction decision in International Shoe v. Washington in 1945. The language of pre-Goodyear opinions on general jurisdiction, jurisdiction based on a defendant’s contacts with the forum state regardless of their relationship to the plaintiff’s claim, suggested that it was constitutionally permissible if the defendant had “continuous and systematic general business contacts” with the forum state. The Court had held that contacts such that the forum was the corporate defendant’s principal place of business satisfied this test, yet millions of dollars of purchases and training by the defendant from the forum state over a seven year period did not. The wide gray area in between these two factual circumstances and the generality of the Court’s “continuous and systematic contacts” test has led lower courts to reach very divergent results on the issue.
In a unanimous opinion in Goodyear Dunlop, the Court clarified that using regular sales in the forum as a basis for general personal jurisdiction, a basis that had been held sufficient by a minority of lower courts, fell “far short” of the types of contacts necessary for general jurisdiction. And significantly, the Court’s opinion introduced a question, drawn from language in International Shoe but not previously stressed in its general jurisdiction opinions, asking whether the defendant’s contacts were such “as to render them essentially at home in the forum state.” This article argues that this refinement of the language of general personal jurisdiction is a welcome addition, as it should assist in marking more clearly the outer bounds of general jurisdiction and in limiting the forum shopping mischief and added costs of litigation that can occur with more expansive and ill defined borders.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Date posted: August 17, 2012