Goodyear Dunlop Tire Operations, S.A. v. Brown and Daimler AG v. Bauman sharply restricted general jurisdiction over corporations, limiting it to a corporation’s (1) state of incorporation, (2) state of principal place of business, or (3) another state where the corporation is “essentially at home.” The Court analogized the first two categories to an individual’s domicile. The Court made clear that the third category is very small, leading Justice Sotomayor, in her opinion concurring in the judgment, to charge that the Court had made many corporations “too big for general jurisdiction.” It is noteworthy that although the Court used the term “essentially at home” in both Goodyear and Daimler, it pointedly did not define it. It would have been easy for the Court to say, for example, that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction only in the state of incorporation or the state in which its principal place of business is — i.e. the diversity jurisdiction reference points for corporate citizenship. But the Court did not say that, so “essentially at home” must mean something beyond the diversity referents. Justice Ginsburg, who wrote both opinions for the Court, is a former Civil Procedure; the possible link to the diversity referents could not have escaped her.
This article argues that the Court’s new approach to general jurisdiction over corporations, particularly with Daimler’s addition of the concept of “relative contacts” — comparing the defendant’s forum contacts with the defendant’s worldwide contacts to determine whether the corporation is “essentially at home” — should compel the Court to reexamine and disapprove transient jurisdiction over individuals, limiting general jurisdiction over individuals to forums where they are domiciled or are “essentially at home,” whatever that may mean. One otherwise confronts the dissonance that general jurisdiction exists over an individual who has been in the forum for five minutes — opening the individual’s entire life to forum judicial adjudication — but not over a corporation that has operated in the forum for decades, has extensive physical facilities and numerous permanent employees in the forum, and derives tens of millions of dollars of annual profit from the forum is not. International Shoe’s minimum-contacts approach, if the Court purports to remain faithful to it, cannot simultaneously embrace Goodyear, Daimler, and Burnham v. Superior Court, which unanimously upheld transient jurisdiction over individuals.
Donald L. Doernberg, Resoling International Shoe, 2 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 247 (2014), is http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/991/.