Supreme Court Revisits Personal Jurisdiction

June 29, 2011

On June 27 the Supreme Court handed down decisions in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown and J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, the Court’s first decisions in over two decades addressing the constitutional limits of a state court’s exercise of “general” and “specific” jurisdiction.  Both decisions will have significant implications for how corporate defendants should analyze their amenability to U.S. court jurisdiction and the jurisdictional strategies of parties involved in complex civil litigation.  The Court’s decision in Goodyear clarifies that the “stream of commerce” analysis is simply irrelevant in the context of general jurisdiction, and the J. McIntyre opinion, while leaving some things unsettled, explains that the mere use of an independent distributor to sell goods in the United States will not, without more, create personal jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer, which is itself a significant departure from, and cutting back on, the prior approach of many state courts on this issue.