General Jurisdiction after Bauman
7 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2014 Last revised: 12 Jun 2014
Date Written: April 24, 2014
On January 14, 2014, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler AG. Like all of the contributors to this Roundtable, all of the Justices agreed that California (and thus a federal district court in California) could not assert general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation (DaimlerChrysler or “Daimler”) for human rights violations allegedly carried out in Argentina by Daimler’s Argentinian subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Argentina (“MBA”), where jurisdiction was based solely on the contacts of another of Daimler’s U.S. subsidiaries, Mercedes-Benz USA (“MBUSA”), in California. Writing for all members of the Court except Justice Sotomayor (who concurred only in the judgment), Justice Ginsburg explained (following her opinion for a unanimous court in Goodyear) that general jurisdiction is only available over a corporate defendant in the place of its incorporation, the place of its principal place of business, or, “in an exceptional case,” in another forum where it is “essentially at home.” Since none of these affiliations applied to the relationship between Daimler and California, the Court held that Daimler could not be sued in California.
The Court sidestepped the precise issue it was asked to decide by Daimler in its certiorari petition (and the issue the contributors addressed for this Roundtable): whether a subsidiary’s contacts can be imputed to a parent corporation to establish general personal jurisdiction. In this brief response, I do two things. First, I review what the Court decided in Bauman and point to some hints the Court has given to lower courts. In so doing, I examine the ways in which the Court’s opinion resonates with the contributions to this Roundtable. Second, I explain what the Court did not do in the case, and I will point to future battlegrounds concerning general jurisdiction.
Keywords: personal jurisdiction, transnational law, transnational forum shopping, general jurisdiction, private international law
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