MISSOURI LAW UPDATE: Missouri Supreme Court Upholds Daimler

Posted: 3/1/2017

The Missouri Supreme Court has recently released an opinion in the case of State Ex Rel. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Relator v. The Honorable Colleen Dolan, Respondent,  icon No._SC95514_.pdf (104 KB) (issued February 28, 2017) upholding the Daimler interpretation of when general jurisdiction applies. The court held that Missouri did not have specific or general personal jurisdiction over the defendant railroad. The court first ruled that there was no specific jurisdiction over the railroad because the personal injury action did not arise out of, and did not relate to Norfolk's activities in Missouri. The court then ruled that while Norfolk does substantial and continuous business in Missouri, it also conducts substantial and continuous business in at least 21 other states, and its Missouri business amounts to only about two percent of its total business. The court determined this to be insufficient to establish general personal jurisdiction over Norfolk.

In reviewing the prior lawsuits against Norfolk cited by the plaintiff, the court stated that the prior suits were based on specific jurisdiction because they concerned injuries that occurred in Missouri or arose out of Norfolk's activities in Missouri which was not the case here. The court clarified that the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that if the corporation was neither incorporated nor had its principle place of business located in that state, general jurisdiction could ONLY be exercised over that defendant in "an exceptional case" in which the forum state must be a "surrogate for place of incorporation or home office" such that the corporation is "essentially at home" in that state. The court stated that to find the corporation "essentially at home" required comparing the corporation's activities in the forum state with its activities in other states through "an appraisal of a corporation's activities in their entirety, nationwide and worldwide." The court clarified that "a corporation that operates in many places can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them." The court summed up its opinion that when "a corporation is neither incorporated nor maintains its principal place of business in a state, mere contacts, no matter how ‘systematic and continuous' are extraordinarily unlikely to add up to an ‘exceptional case'."

The plaintiff had argued further that the FELA statute itself provided specific jurisdiction any place a railroad corporation has tracks. The court distinguished between the statute providing subject matter jurisdiction versus specific jurisdiction and held that the federal statute did not confer personal jurisdiction as such. Finally, the court held that defendants do not concede jurisdiction in registering to do business in the state. The court explained, "As section 351.594.1 provides only that registration is consent to service of process that Missouri requires or permits to be served on foreign corporations, the registration statute does not provide an independent basis for broadening Missouri's personal jurisdiction to include suits unrelated to the corporation's forum activities when the usual bases for general jurisdiction are not present."