444 U.S. 286 (1980), 78-1078, World-Wide Volkwagen Corp. v. Woodson

Docket Nº:No. 78-1078
Citation:444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490
Party Name:World-Wide Volkwagen Corp. v. Woodson
Case Date:January 21, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 286

444 U.S. 286 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490

World-Wide Volkwagen Corp.

v.

Woodson

No. 78-1078

United States Supreme Court

January 21, 1980

Argued October 3, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OKLAHOMA

Syllabus

A products liability action was instituted in an Oklahoma st,ate court by respondents husband and wife to recover for personal injuries sustained in Oklahoma in an accident involving an automobile that had been purchased by them in New York while they were New York residents and that was being driven through Oklahoma at the time of the accident. The defendants included the automobile retailer and its wholesaler (petitioners), New York corporations that did no business in Oklahoma. Petitioners entered special appearances, claiming that Oklahoma's exercise of jurisdiction over them would offend limitations on the State's jurisdiction imposed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court rejected petitioners' claims, and they then sought, but were denied, a writ of prohibition in the Oklahoma Supreme Court to restrain respondent trial judge from exercising in personam jurisdiction over them.

Held: Consistently with the Due Process Clause, the Oklahoma trial court may not exercise in personam jurisdiction over petitioners. Pp. 291-299.

(a) A state court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as there exist "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum State. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310. The defendant's contacts with the forum State must be such that maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, id. at 316, and the relationship between the defendant and the forum must be such that it is "reasonable . . . to require the corporation to defend the particular suit which is brought there," id. at 317. The Due Process Clause

does not contemplate that a state may make binding a judgment in personam against an individual or corporate defendant with which the state has no contacts, ties, or relations.

Id. at 319. Pp. 291-294.

(b) Here, there is a total absence in the record of those affiliating circumstances that are a necessary predicate to any exercise of state court jurisdiction. Petitioners carry on no activity whatsoever in Oklahoma; they close no sales and perform no services there, avail

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themselves of none of the benefits of Oklahoma law, and solicit no business there either through salespersons or through advertising reasonably calculated to reach that State. Nor does the record show that they regularly sell cars to Oklahoma residents, or that they indirectly, through others, serve or seek to serve the Oklahoma market. Although it is foreseeable that automobiles sold by petitioners would travel to Oklahoma and that the automobile here might cause injury in Oklahoma, "foreseeability" alone is not a sufficient benchmark for personal jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause. The foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis is not the mere likelihood that a product will find its way into the forum State, but rather is that the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum are such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there. Nor can jurisdiction be supported on the theory that petitioners earn substantial revenue from goods used in Oklahoma. Pp. 295-299.

585 P.2d 351, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 299. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 313. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 317.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue before us is whether, consistently with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, an Oklahoma court may exercise in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident automobile retailer and its wholesale distributor in a products liability action, when the defendants' only connection with Oklahoma is the fact that an automobile sold in New York to New York residents became involved in an accident in Oklahoma.

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I

Respondents Harry and Kay Robinson purchased a new Audi automobile from petitioner Seaway Volkswagen, Inc. (Seaway), in Massena, N.Y. in 1976. The following year, the Robinson family, who resided in New York, left that State for a new home in Arizona. As they passed through the State of Oklahoma, another car struck their Audi in the rear, causing a fire which severely burned Kay Robinson and her two children.1

The Robinsons2 subsequently brought a products liability action in the District Court for Creek County, Okla., claiming that their injuries resulted from defective design and placement of the Audi's gas tank and fuel system. They joined as defendants the automobile's manufacturer, Audi NSU Auto Union Aktiengesellschaft (Audi); its importer, Volkswagen of America, Inc. (Volkswagen); its regional distributor, petitioner World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. (World-Wide); and its retail dealer, petitioner Seaway. Seaway and World-Wide entered special appearances,3 claiming that Oklahoma's exercise of jurisdiction over them would offend the limitations on the State's jurisdiction imposed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.4

The facts presented to the District Court showed that World-Wide is incorporated and has its business office in New

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York. It distributes vehicles, parts, and accessories, under contract with Volkswagen, to retail dealers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Seaway, one of these retail dealers, is incorporated and has its place of business in New York. Insofar as the record reveals, Seaway and World-Wide are fully independent corporations whose relations with each other and with Volkswagen and Audi are contractual only. Respondents adduced no evidence that either World-Wide or Seaway does any business in Oklahoma, ships or sells any products to or in that State, has an agent to receive process there, or purchases advertisements in any media calculated to reach Oklahoma. In fact, as respondents' counsel conceded at oral argument, Tr. of Oral Arg 32, there was no showing that any automobile sold by World-Wide or Seaway has ever entered Oklahoma, with the single exception of the vehicle involved in the present case.

Despite the apparent paucity of contacts between petitioners and Oklahoma, the District Court rejected their constitutional claim and reaffirmed that ruling in denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration.5 Petitioners then sought a writ of prohibition in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma to restrain the District Judge, respondent Charles S. Woodson, from exercising in personam jurisdiction over them. They renewed their contention that, because they had no "minimal contacts," App. 32, with the State of Oklahoma, the actions of the District Judge were in violation of their rights under the Due Process Clause.

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma denied the writ, 585 P.2d 351 (1978),6 holding that personal jurisdiction over petitioners was authorized by Oklahoma's "long-arm" statute,

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Okla.Stat., Tit. 12, § 1701.03(a)(4) (1971).7 Although the court noted that the proper approach was to test jurisdiction against both statutory and constitutional standards, its analysis did not distinguish these questions, probably because § 1701.03(a)(4) has been interpreted as conferring jurisdiction to the limits permitted by the United States Constitution.8 The court's rationale was contained in the following paragraph, 585 P.2d at 354:

In the case before us, the product being sold and distributed by the petitioners is, by its very design and purpose, so mobile that petitioners can foresee its possible use in Oklahoma. This is especially true of the distributor, who has the exclusive right to distribute such automobile in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The evidence presented below demonstrated that goods sold and distributed by the petitioners were used in the State of Oklahoma, and, under the facts, we believe it reasonable to infer, given the retail value of the automobile, that the petitioners derive substantial income from automobiles which from time to time are used in the State of Oklahoma. This being the case, we hold that, under the facts presented, the trial court was justified in concluding

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that the petitioners derive substantial revenue from goods used or consumed in this State.

We granted certiorari, 440 U.S. 907 (1979), to consider an important constitutional question with respect to state court jurisdiction and to resolve a conflict between the Supreme Court of Oklahoma and the highest courts of at least four other States.9 We reverse.

II

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment limits the power of a state court to render a valid personal judgment against a nonresident defendant. Kulko v. California Superior Court, 436 U.S. 84, 91 (1978). A judgment rendered in violation of due process is void in the rendering State and is not entitled to full faith and credit elsewhere. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 732-733 (1878). Due process requires that the defendant be given adequate notice of the suit, Mullane v. Central Hanover Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 313-314 (1950), and be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court, International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). In the present case, it is not contended that notice was inadequate; the only question is whether these particular petitioners were subject to the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma courts.

As has long been settled, and as we reaffirm today, a state court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as there exist "minimum contacts" between the...

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