466 U.S. 408 (1984), 82-1127, Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia v. Hall

Docket Nº:No. 82-1127
Citation:466 U.S. 408, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404
Party Name:Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia v. Hall
Case Date:April 24, 1984
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 408

466 U.S. 408 (1984)

104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404

Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia

v.

Hall

No. 82-1127

United States Supreme Court

April 24, 1984

Argued November 8, 1983

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS

Syllabus

Petitioner, a Colombian corporation, entered into a contract to provide helicopter transportation for a Peruvian consortium, the alter ego of a joint venture that had its headquarters in Houston, Tex., during the consortium's construction of a pipeline in Peru for a Peruvian state-owned oil company. Petitioner has no place of business in Texas, and never has been licensed to do business there. Its only contacts with the State consisted of sending its chief executive officer to Houston to negotiate the contract with the consortium, accepting into its New York bank account checks drawn by the consortium on a Texas bank, purchasing helicopters, equipment, and training services from a Texas manufacturer, and sending personnel to that manufacturer's facilities for training. After a helicopter owned by petitioner crashed in Peru, resulting in the death of respondents' decedents -- United States citizens who were employed by the consortium -- respondents instituted wrongful death actions in a Texas state court against the consortium, the Texas manufacturer, and petitioner. Denying petitioner's motion to dismiss the actions for lack of in personam jurisdiction over it, the trial court entered judgment against petitioner on a jury verdict in favor of respondents. The Texas Court of Civil Appeals reversed, holding that in personam jurisdiction over petitioner was lacking, but in turn was reversed by the Texas Supreme Court.

Held: Petitioner's contacts with Texas were insufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and hence to allow the Texas court to assert in personam jurisdiction over petitioner. The one trip to Houston by petitioner's chief executive officer for the purpose of negotiating the transportation services contract cannot be regarded as a contact of a "continuous and systematic" nature, and thus cannot support an assertion of general jurisdiction. Similarly, petitioner's acceptance of checks drawn on a Texas bank is of negligible significance for purposes of determining whether petitioner had sufficient contacts in Texas. Nor were petitioner's purchases of helicopters and equipment from the Texas manufacturer and the related training trips a sufficient basis for the Texas court's assertion of jurisdiction. Rosenberg Bros. & Co. v. Curtis Brown Co., 260 U.S. 516. Mere purchases, even if occurring at regular intervals, are not enough to warrant

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a State's assertion of in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident corporation in a cause of action not related to the purchases. And the fact that petitioner sent personnel to Texas for training in connection with the purchases did not enhance the nature of petitioner's contacts with Texas. Pp. 413-419.

638 S.W.2d 870, reversed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 419.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case, 460 U.S. 1021 (1983), to decide whether the Supreme Court of Texas correctly ruled that the contacts of a foreign corporation with the State of Texas were sufficient to allow a Texas state court to assert jurisdiction over the corporation in a cause of action not [104 S.Ct. 1870] arising out of or related to the corporation's activities within the State.

I

Petitioner Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. (Helicol), is a Colombian corporation with its principal place of business in the city of Bogota in that country. It is engaged in the business of providing helicopter transportation for oil and construction companies in South America. On

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January 26, 1976, a helicopter owned by Helicol crashed in Peru. Four United States citizens were among those who lost their lives in the accident. Respondents are the survivors and representatives of the four decedents.

At the time of the crash, respondents' decedents were employed by Consorcio, a Peruvian consortium, and were working on a pipeline in Peru. Consorcio is the alter ego of a joint venture named Williams-Sedco-Horn (WSH).1 The venture had its headquarters in Houston, Tex. Consorcio had been formed to enable the venturers to enter into a contract with Petro Peru, the Peruvian state-owned oil company. Consorcio was to construct a pipeline for Petro Peru running from the interior of Peru westward to the Pacific Ocean. Peruvian law forbade construction of the pipeline by any non-Peruvian entity.

Consorcio/WSH2 needed helicopters to move personnel, materials, and equipment into and out of the construction area. In 1974, upon request of Consorcio/WSH, the chief executive officer of Helicol, Francisco Restrepo, flew to the United States and conferred in Houston with representatives of the three joint venturers. At that meeting, there was a discussion of prices, availability, working conditions, fuel, supplies, and housing. Restrepo represented that Helicol could have the first helicopter on the job in 15 days. The Consorcio/WSH representatives decided to accept the contract proposed by Restrepo. Helicol began performing before the agreement was formally signed in Peru on November 11, 1974.3 The contract was written in Spanish on

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official government stationery and provided that the residence of all the parties would be Lima, Peru. It further stated that controversies arising out of the contract would be submitted to the jurisdiction of Peruvian courts. In addition, it provided that Consorcio/WSH would make payments to Helicol's account with the Bank of America in New York City. App. 12a.

Aside from the negotiation session in Houston between Restrepo and the representatives of Consorcio/WSH, Helicol had other contacts with Texas. During the years 1970-1977, it purchased helicopters (approximately 80% of its fleet), spare parts, and accessories for more than $4 million from Bell Helicopter Company in Fort Worth. In that period, Helicol sent prospective pilots to Fort Worth for training and to ferry the aircraft to South America. It also sent management and maintenance personnel to visit Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth during the same period in order to receive "plant familiarization" and for technical consultation. Helicol received into its New York City and Panama City, Fla., bank accounts over $5 million in payments from Consorcio/WSH drawn upon First City National Bank of Houston.

Beyond the foregoing, there have been no other business contacts between Helicol and the State of Texas. Helicol never has been authorized to do business in Texas, and never has had an agent for the [104 S.Ct. 1871] service of process within the State. It never has performed helicopter operations in Texas or sold any product that reached Texas, never solicited business in Texas, never signed any contract in Texas, never had any employee based there, and never recruited an employee in Texas. In addition, Helicol never has owned real or personal property in Texas, and never has maintained an office or establishment there. Helicol has maintained no records in Texas, and has no shareholders in that State.4 None of the

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respondents or their decedents were domiciled in Texas, Tr. of Oral Arg. 17, 18,5 but all of the decedents were hired in Houston by Consorcio/WSH to work on the Petro Peru pipeline project.

Respondents instituted wrongful death actions in the District Court of Harris County, Tex., against Consorcio/WSH, Bell Helicopter Company, and Helicol. Helicol filed special appearances and moved to dismiss the actions for lack of in personam jurisdiction over it. The motion was denied. After a consolidated jury trial, judgment was entered against Helicol on a jury verdict of $1,141,200 in favor of respondents.6 App. 174a.

The Texas Court of Civil Appeals, Houston, First District, reversed the judgment of the District Court, holding that in personam jurisdiction over Helicol was lacking. 616 S.W.2d 247 (1981). The Supreme Court of Texas, with three justices dissenting, initially affirmed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals. App. to Pet. for Cert. 46a-62a. Seven months later, however, on motion for rehearing, the court withdrew its prior opinions and, again with three justices dissenting, reversed the judgment of the intermediate court. 638 S.W.2d 870 (1982). In ruling that the Texas courts had

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in personam jurisdiction, the Texas Supreme Court first held that the State's long-arm statute reaches as far as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits. Id. at 872.7 Thus, the only question remaining for the court to decide was [104 S.Ct. 1872] whether it was consistent with the Due Process Clause for Texas courts to assert in personam jurisdiction over Helicol. Ibid.

II

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment operates to limit the power of a State to assert in personam

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jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1878). Due process requirements are satisfied when in personam jurisdiction is asserted over a nonresident corporate defendant that has

certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice."

International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945), quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940). When a controversy is related to or "arises out of" a defendant's contacts with the...

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