The Predictability Principle in Personal Jurisdiction Doctrine: A Case Study on the Effects of a Generally Too Broad, But Specifically Too Narrow Aproach to Minimum Contacts

109 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2006

Abstract

Despite perceptive commentary and Supreme Court precedent indicating that specific and general personal jurisdiction articulate two distinct types of adjudicative authority over a defendant, many state courts persist in differentiating these concepts only quantitatively in relation to the number of the defendant's forum contacts. According to these courts, specific jurisdiction is only proper in cases involving single or isolated contacts, while general jurisdiction applies whenever numerous contacts exist.

This article, through a comparative case study, demonstrates that this misunderstanding causes the adoption of narrow categorical criteria for evaluating specific jurisdiction and the simultaneous expansion of general jurisdiction. By limiting the application of specific jurisdiction to cases involving single or isolated contacts, the courts must attempt to provide some benchmark for distinguishing those single, isolated, or sporadic contacts that establish jurisdiction from those that do not. They've accomplished this through mechanical standards that equate, for example, jurisdiction in contract actions with the place of performance and jurisdiction in tortious misrepresentation cases with the locale of reliance. When this unduly restrictive view of specific jurisdiction precludes the defendant's amenability, courts often resort to broadening general jurisdiction, which subsequently dilutes the quantum and quality of activities necessary to support true dispute-blind jurisdiction in other contexts.

My thesis is that much of the chaos prevalent in state court personal jurisdiction decisions is traceable to this misunderstanding. Courts must properly distinguish between general and specific jurisdiction if there is any hope of formulating a coherent doctrine.

Keywords: Personal jurisdiction, minimum contacts

JEL Classification: K42

Suggested Citation

Rhodes, Charles W. (Rocky), The Predictability Principle in Personal Jurisdiction Doctrine: A Case Study on the Effects of a Generally Too Broad, But Specifically Too Narrow Aproach to Minimum Contacts. Baylor Law Review, Vol. 57, p. 135, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=922404

Charles W. (Rocky) Rhodes (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
713-646-2918 (Phone)

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