Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company: The Unwarranted End of Consent to General Jurisdiction in Pennsylvania
50 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2022 Last revised: 15 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 6, 2022
Pennsylvania’s business registration statute is unique. It is the only statute that requires foreign corporations to consent to general personal jurisdiction upon registration of the business. The Pennsylvania statute is potentially in tension with the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, which indicated that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction only in its principal place of business or state of incorporation.
In Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s registration statute was, in fact, unconstitutional under Daimler. The court therefore held that Pennsylvania courts could not exercise jurisdiction over a Virginia corporation that had registered to do business in Pennsylvania in a suit that arose from the corporation’s activities in Ohio. In April 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Mallory to consider whether the Due Process Clause prohibits a state from requiring a corporation to consent to general personal jurisdiction upon registration there.
This Note argues that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in applying Daimler to the Commonwealth’s business registration statute, focused on the wrong issue. Instead, the court should have looked for guidance from the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on consent to personal jurisdiction, namely, the landmark decision in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, in which the Court held that a forum selection clause is valid, absent negotiation, as long as it is fundamentally fair. The Supreme Court should reverse the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling and make clear that Daimler did not foreclose states’ ability to establish general personal jurisdiction through consent. When registering to do business in Pennsylvania, the defendant in Mallory knowingly and voluntarily consented to general jurisdiction. Even if that consent was achieved by semi-coercive means, the Court’s precedent allows individuals to be coerced into consenting to personal jurisdiction. The rules for corporations should be no different.
Keywords: civil procedure, Mallory, Norfolk Southern Railway, Daimler, General Jurisdiction, Personal Jurisdiction, Consent
JEL Classification: K41, K40, K00, K19, K20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation