Does a state have personal jurisdiction if the plaintiff, the defendant, and the incident are outside the state? | Allen Matkin

After Robert Mallory was diagnosed with colon cancer, he sued Norfolk Southern in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act for alleged exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Although Mr. Mallory filed suit in Pennsylvania, he did not work for Norfolk Southern or reside in that state. Norfolk Southern is a Virginia corporation with its principal place of business in that state at the time the complaint was filed. The lawsuit’s only connection to Pennsylvania was Norfolk Southern’s registration as a foreign corporation in Pennsylvania. The court hook for the lawsuit was a Pennsylvania statute providing for the registration of a corporation as a foreign corporation, which is considered “a sufficient basis of jurisdiction” to enable the courts of that Commonwealth to exercise general personal jurisdiction over the corporation exercise. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 5301(a)(2)(i). Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether the Constitution allows Pennsylvania to require a nongovernmental entity to “consent” to general personal jurisdiction — and thereby be sued on any cause of action, even if the litigation have no relationship with the state – as a condition of doing business there. Mallory v Norfolk Southern Railway Co., USS Ct. Case #21-1168

California, like Pennsylvania and other states, prohibits foreign companies from conducting domestic business without registering with the Secretary of State. Kal Corp Code § 2105. While the California registration form requires that the foreign corporation irrevocably consent to service of process, the state does not require that it consent to common jurisdiction. AM Trust v UBS AG681 F. Anh. 587, 588-89 (9th Circle 2017). See Court Rules Registration to conduct domestic business does not constitute general jurisdiction.

Is not registering consent?

An unfavorable judgment in Mallory will likely cause trouble for another California law – Corporations Code Section 2203(a). This law provides that a foreign corporation conducting domestic business without registration consents to the jurisdiction of the California courts. Section 2203 appears even more constitutionally questionable than the Pennsylvania Statute because Pennsylvania requires at least the Act of Registration to establish consent.

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