Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Daimler AG v Bauman: court again rejects a ‘sprawling view of general jurisdiction’

By Colin T Kemp, Kevin M Fong, Sam Stubbs and Jhalé Ali

On 14 January 2014, the US Supreme Court in Daimler AG v Bauman held that Argentinian plaintiffs could not sue a German car manufacturer in California for human rights violations allegedly committed in Argentina. The court explained that US courts may only exercise general jurisdiction over foreign corporations when the corporation’s contacts with the state in which the suit is brought are so extensive that the corporation is ‘essentially at home’ in the state.

Before diving into Daimler AG v Bauman, a brief overview of personal jurisdiction may help. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to make binding decisions concerning each party in a lawsuit. This authority is derived from the parties’ contacts with the state in which the suit is brought — the forum state.

For a case to proceed, the court must have at least one of two types of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The first is ‘general’ jurisdiction, which permits a court to hear any claim against a defendant with extensive contacts with the forum state, regardless of the subject matter of the lawsuit. In Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations SA v Brown, the Supreme Court explained that these contacts must be ‘so continuous and systematic as to render [the defendant] essentially at home in the forum state’…

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