Jurisdiction; the rule on out-of-state defendant corporations (US SC decision June 2011)

10-76.pdf (application/pdf Object)

No. 10–76. Argued January 11, 2011 —Decided June 27, 2011

Respondents, North Carolina residents whose sons died in a bus acci-dent outside Paris, France, filed a suit for wrongful-death damages inNorth Carolina state court. Alleging that the accident was caused bytire failure, they named as defendants Goodyear USA, an Ohio corpo-ration, and petitioners, three Goodyear USA subsidiaries, organizedand operating, respectively, in Luxembourg, Turkey, and France. Pe-titioners’ tires are manufactured primarily for European and Asianmarkets and differ in size and construction from tires ordinarily sold in the United States. Petitioners are not registered to do business in North Carolina; have no place of business, employees, or bank ac-counts in the State; do not design, manufacture, or advertise theirproducts in the State; and do not solicit business in the State or sellor ship tires to North Carolina customers. Even so, a small percent-age of their tires were distributed in North Carolina by other Good-year USA affiliates. The trial court denied petitioners’ motion todismiss the claims against them for want of personal jurisdiction. The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the North Carolina courts had general jurisdiction over petitioners, whose tires had reached the State through “the stream of commerce.”

Held: Petitioners were not amenable to suit in North Carolina on claims unrelated to any activity of petitioners in the forum State.Pp. 6–14.

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause sets the outer boundaries of a state tribunal’s authority to proceed against adefendant. The pathmarking decision of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U. S. 310, provides that state courts may exercise
personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant who has “certainminimum contacts with [the State] such that the maintenance of thesuit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantialjustice.’ ” Id., at 316. Endeavoring to give specific content to the “fairplay and substantial justice” concept, the Court in International Shoe classified cases involving out-of-state corporate defendants. First, the Court recognized that jurisdiction could be asserted where thecorporation’s in-state activity is “continuous and systematic” and gave rise to the episode-in-suit. Id., at 317. It also observed that the commission of “single or occasional acts” in a State may be sufficientto render a corporation answerable in that State with respect to thoseacts, though not with respect to matters unrelated to the forum con-nections. Id., at 318. These two categories compose what is nowknown as “specific jurisdiction.” Helicopteros Nacionales de Colom-bia, S. A. v. Hall, 466 U. S. 408, 414, n. 8. International Shoe distin-guished from cases that fit within the “specific jurisdiction” catego-ries, “instances in which the continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suitagainst it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinctfrom those activities.” 326 U. S., at 318. Adjudicatory authority so grounded is now called “general jurisdiction.” Helicopteros, 466 U. S., at 414, n. 9. Since International Shoe, this Court’s decisions have elaborated primarily on circumstances that warrant the exercise of specific jurisdiction. In only two decisions postdating International Shoe has this Court considered whether an out-of-state corporate de-fendant’s in-state contacts were sufficiently “continuous and system-atic” to justify the exercise of general jurisdiction over claims unre-lated to those contacts: Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., U. S. 437; and Helicopteros, 466 U. S. 408. Pp. 6–9.

(b) Petitioners lack “the kind of continuous and systematic general business contacts” necessary to allow North Carolina to entertain asuit against them unrelated to anything that connects them to theState. Helicopteros, 466 U. S., at 416. The stream-of-commerce cases on which the North Carolina court relied relate to exercises of specific jurisdiction in products liability actions, in which a nonresident de-fendant, acting outside the forum, places in the stream of commerce aproduct that ultimately causes harm inside the forum. Many statelong-arm statutes authorize courts to exercise specific jurisdictionover manufacturers when the events in suit, or some of them, oc-curred within the forum State. The North Carolina court’s stream-of-commerce analysis elided the essential difference between case-specific and general jurisdiction. Flow of a manufacturer’s productsinto the forum may bolster an affiliation germane to specific jurisdic-tion, see, e.g., World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U. S.
Cite as: 564 U. S. ____ (2011) 286, 297; but ties serving to bolster the exercise of specific jurisdic-tion do not warrant a determination that, based on those ties, the fo-rum has general jurisdiction over a defendant.

A corporation’s “con-tinuous activity of some sorts within a state,” International Shoe instructed, “is not enough to support the demand that the corporation be amenable to suits unrelated to that activity.” 326 U. S., at 318.

Measured against Helicopteros and Perkins, North Carolina is not a forum in which it would be permissible to subject petitioners togeneral jurisdiction. In the 1952 Perkins case, general jurisdictionwas appropriately exercised over a Philippine corporation sued inOhio, where the company’s affairs were overseen during World War

II. In Helicopteros, however, the survivors of U. S. citizens killed when a helicopter owned by a Colombian corporation crashed in Peru could not maintain wrongful-death actions against that corporationin Texas, where the company’s contacts “consisted of sending its chief executive officer to Houston for a contract-negotiation session; accept-ing into its New York bank account checks drawn on a Houston bank; purchasing helicopters, equipment, and training services from [a Texas enterprise]; and sending personnel to [Texas] for training.”466 U. S., at 416. These links to Texas did not “constitute the kind of continuous and systematic general business contacts . . . found to ex-ist in Perkins,” and were insufficient to support the exercise of juris-diction over a claim that neither “ ‘ar[o]se out of’ . . . no[r] related to” the defendant’s activities in Texas. Id., at 415–416. This Court sees no reason to differentiate from the ties to Texas held insufficient in Helicopteros, the sales of petitioners’ tires sporadically made in North Carolina through intermediaries. Pp. 9–13.

(c) Neither below nor in their brief in opposition to the petition forcertiorari did respondents urge disregard of petitioners’ discretestatus as subsidiaries and treatment of all Goodyear entities as a “unitary business,” so that jurisdiction over the parent would draw in the subsidiaries as well. Respondents have therefore forfeited this contention. Pp. 13–14.
199 N. C. App. 50, 681 S. E. 2d 382, reversed.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
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