Burger King Corporation v. Rudzewicz

Decision Date20 May 1985
Docket NumberNo. 83-2097,83-2097
Citation471 U.S. 462,105 S.Ct. 2174,85 L.Ed.2d 528
PartiesBURGER KING CORPORATION, Appellant v. John RUDZEWICZ
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Appellant is a Florida corporation whose principal offices are in Miami. It conducts most of its restaurant business through a franchise operation, under which franchisees are licensed to use appellant's trademarks and service marks in leased standardized restaurant facilities for a period of 20 years. The governing contracts provide that the franchise relationship is established in Miami and governed by Florida law, and call for payment of all required monthly fees and forwarding of all relevant notices to the Miami headquarters. The Miami headquarters sets policy and works directly with the franchisees in attempting to resolve major problems. Day-to-day monitoring of franchisees, however, is conducted through district offices that in turn report to the Miami headquarters. Appellee is a Michigan resident who, along with another Michigan resident, entered into a 20-year franchise contract with appellant to operate a restaurant in Michigan. Subsequently, when the restaurant's patronage declined, the franchisees fell behind in their monthly payments. After extended negotiations among the franchisees, the Michigan district office, and the Miami headquarters proved unsuccessful in solving the problem, headquarters terminated the franchise and ordered the franchisees to vacate the premises. They refused and continued to operate the restaurant. Appellant then brought a diversity action in Federal District Court in Florida, alleging that the franchisees had breached their franchise obligations and requesting damages and injunctive relief. The franchisees claimed that, because they were Michigan residents and because appellant's claim did not "arise" within Florida, the District Court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. But the court held that the franchisees were subject to personal jurisdiction pursuant to Florida's long-arm statute, which extends jurisdiction to any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of the State, who breaches a contract in the State by failing to perform acts that the contract requires to be performed there. Thereafter, the court entered judgment against the franchisees on the merits. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that "[j]urisdiction under these circumstances would offend the fundamental fairness which is the touchstone of due process."

Held: The District Court's exercise of jurisdiction pursuant to Florida's long-arm statute did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 471-487.

(a) A forum may assert specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant where an alleged injury arises out of or relates to actions by the defendant himself that are purposefully directed toward forum residents, and where jurisdiction would not otherwise offend "fair play and substantial justice." Jurisdiction in these circumstances may not be avoided merely because the defendant did not physically enter the forum. Pp. 471-478.

(b) An individual's contract with an out-of-state party cannot alone automatically establish sufficient minimum contacts in the other party's home forum. Instead, the prior negotiations and contemplated future consequences, along with the terms of the contract and the parties' actual course of dealing, must be evaluated to determine whether a defendant purposefully established minimum contacts within the forum. Pp. 478-479.

(c) Here, appellee established a substantial and continuing relationship with appellant's Miami headquarters, and received fair notice from the contract documents and the course of dealings that he might be subject to suit in Florida. The District Court found that appellee is an "experienced and sophisticated" businessman who did not act under economic duress or disadvantage imposed by appellant, and appellee has pointed to no other factors that would establish the unconstitutionality of Florida's assertion of jurisdiction. Pp. 479-487.

724 F.2d 1505 (CA11 1984), reversed and remanded.

Joel S. Perwin, Miami, Fla., for appellant.

Thomas H. Oehmke, Detroit, Mich., for appellee.

Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The State of Florida's long-arm statute extends jurisdiction to "[a]ny person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state," who, inter alia, "[b]reach[es] a contract in this state by failing to perform acts required by the contract to be performed in this state," so long as the cause of action arises from the alleged contractual breach. Fla.Stat. § 48.193(1)(g) (Supp.1984). The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, sitting in diversity, relied on this provision in exercising personal jurisdiction over a Michigan resident who allegedly had breached a franchise agreement with a Florida corporation by failing to make required payments in Florida. The question presented is whether this exercise of long-arm jurisdiction offended "traditional conception[s] of fair play and substantial justice" embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320, 66 S.Ct. 154, 160, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945).

I
A.

Burger King Corporation is a Florida corporation whose principal offices are in Miami. It is one of the world's largest restaurant organizations, with over 3,000 outlets in the 50 States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and 8 foreign nations. Burger King conducts approximately 80% of its business through a franchise operation that the company styles the "Burger King System""a comprehensive restaurant format and operating system for the sale of uniform and quality food products." App. 46.1 Burger King licenses its franchisees to use its trademarks and service marks for a period of 20 years and leases standardized restaurant facilities to them for the same term. In addition, franchisees acquire a variety of proprietary information concerning the "standards, specifications, procedures and methods for op- erating a Burger King Restaurant." Id., at 52. They also receive market research and advertising assistance; ongoing training in restaurant management; 2 and accounting, cost-control, and inventory-control guidance. By permitting franchisees to tap into Burger King's established national reputation and to benefit from proven procedures for dispensing standardized fare, this system enables them to go into the restaurant business with significantly lowered barriers to entry.3

In exchange for these benefits, franchisees pay Burger King an initial $40,000 franchise fee and commit themselves to payment of monthly royalties, advertising and sales promotion fees, and rent computed in part from monthly gross sales. Franchisees also agree to submit to the national organization's exacting regulation of virtually every conceivable aspect of their operations.4 Burger King imposes these standards and undertakes its rigid regulation out of conviction that "[u]niformity of service, appearance, and quality of product is essential to the preservation of the Burger King image and the benefits accruing therefrom to both Franchisee and Franchisor." Id., at 31.

Burger King oversees its franchise system through a two-tiered administrative structure. The governing contracts provide that the franchise relationship is established in Miami and governed by Florida law, and call for payment of all required fees and forwarding of all relevant notices to the Miami headquarters.5 The Miami headquarters sets policy and works directly with its franchisees in attempting to resolve major problems. See nn. 7, 9, infra. Day-to-day monitoring of franchisees, however, is conducted through a network of 10 district offices which in turn report to the Miami headquarters.

The instant litigation grows out of Burger King's termination of one of its franchisees, and is aptly described by the franchisee as "a divorce proceeding among commercial partners." 5 Record 4. The appellee John Rudzewicz, a Michigan citizen and resident, is the senior partner in a Detroit accounting firm. In 1978, he was approached by Brian MacShara, the son of a business acquaintance, who suggested that they jointly apply to Burger King for a franchise in the Detroit area. MacShara proposed to serve as the manager of the restaurant if Rudzewicz would put up the investment capital; in exchange, the two would evenly share the profits. Believing that MacShara's idea offered attractive investment and tax-deferral opportunities, Rudzewicz agreed to the venture. 6 id., at 438-439, 444, 460.

Rudzewicz and MacShara jointly applied for a franchise to Burger King's Birmingham, Michigan, district office in the autumn of 1978. Their application was forwarded to Burger King's Miami headquarters, which entered into a preliminary agreement with them in February 1979. During the ensuing four months it was agreed that Rudzewicz and MacShara would assume operation of an existing facility in Drayton Plains, Michigan. MacShara attended the prescribed management courses in Miami during this period, see n. 2, supra, and the franchisees purchased $165,000 worth of restaurant equipment from Burger King's Davmor Industries division in Miami. Even before the final agreements were signed, however, the parties began to disagree over site-development fees, building design, computation of monthly rent, and whether the franchisees would be able to assign their liabilities to a corporation they had formed.6 During these disputes Rudzewicz and MacShara negotiated both with the Birmingham district office and with the Miami headquarters.7 With some misgivings, Rudzewicz and MacShara finally obtained limited concessions from the Miami headquarters,8 signed the final agreements, and commenced operations in June 1979. By signing the final agreements, Rudzewicz obligated himself personally to payments exceeding $1 million over the 20-year franchise...

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