Blum & Wajert: I Do? Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and the General Jurisdiction Consent Battle

Facing issues worthy of a civil procedure final exam, courts have continued to address the theory that a corporate defendant consents to personal jurisdiction in a state’s courts merely by registering to do business in that state. Such cases raise serious issues of Constitutional interpretation.

In the seminal decision International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), the United States Supreme Court clarified that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the defendant’s liberty interest in not being subject to the binding judgment of a forum with which the defendant has insufficient “contacts, ties, or relations.” International Shoe made it clear that a tribunal’s authority depends upon the defendant’s minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit “does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Focusing on the nature and extent of a corporate defendant’s relationship with the forum state led to the recognition of two categories of personal jurisdiction: specific and general. The exercise of specific jurisdiction requires an adequate affiliation between the forum state and the underlying case or controversy. General jurisdiction, when it exists, extends to all claims brought against a foreign corporation in that forum.

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