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Sunday, February 12, 2017

FELA: US Supreme Court to Review Personal Jurisdiction Criteria

The United States Supreme Court will review the merits of a case involving the personal jurisdiction criteria of a FELA case.

"Issue: Whether a state court may decline to follow the Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, which held that the due process clause forbids a state court from exercising general personal jurisdiction over a defendant that is not at home in the forum state, in a suit against an American defendant under the Federal Employers' Liability Act."



QUESTION PRESENTED:
In Daimler AG u. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), this Court held that the Due Process Clause forbids a state court from exercising general personal jurisdiction except where the defendant is "at home." BNSF Railway Company is not at home in Montana under Daimler , yet the Montana Supreme Court held that BNSF is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Montana, and can be sued there by out-of-state plaintiffs for claims that have no connection at all to the state. The Montana Supreme Court explicitly "declined" to apply this Court's decision in Daimler , for two reasons:
  • First, because the facts of this case involve American parties and arose in the United States, not foreign parties and an overseas injury as in Daimler. 
  • Second, because the plaintiffs here sued under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), which is a different federal cause of action from the ones at issue in Daimler. Section 56 of FELA establishes venue for cases filed in federal court, and it provides for concurrent subject-matter jurisdiction in state courts. Yet the Montana Supreme Court held that this provision authorizes state courts to exercise personal jurisdiction, and that the statute overrides the limitations of the Due Process Clause. 
The question presented is: Whether a state court may decline to follow this Court's decision in Daimler AG u. Bauman, which held that the Due Process Clause forbids a state court from exercising general personal jurisdiction over a defendant that is not at home in the forum state, in a suit against an American defendant under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.