Hess v. Pawloski
274 U.S. 352, 47 S. Ct. 632, 71 L. Ed. 1091 (1927)
Hess was a Pennsylvania
resident, and was driving through Massachusetts when he hit Pawloski.
Hess went home to Pennsylvania.
Pawloski sued Hess in
Massachusetts. Hess argued that Massachusetts did not have jurisdiction.
Hess was not served in
Massachusetts, was not domiciled in Massachusetts, and none of Hess's
property was in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts courts found
that they did have jurisdiction.
Massachusetts had a State
law that said any nonresident operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts
automatically appoints the registrar as his agent for service of
process. Therefore, he could be
found to have in personam
liability in Massachusetts.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court found
that the Massachusetts law was constitutional.
The Privileges and
Immunities Clause says that
residents of other States have the same rights as residents of that
State. The Court found that both residents and nonresidents could be
sued in Massachusetts, so there was no Constitutional issue.
The Court established the
theory of implied consent to interstate jurisdictional issues.
Compare this case to the
similar case of Pennoyer v. Neff (94
U.S. 714 (1878)). In that case Oregon did not establish jurisdiction.
The difference was that
Oregon did not have an explicit law like Massachusetts did.
Laws like the Massachusetts
law were becoming necessary because reality was changing. Prior to the
automobile people didn't travel much, so you normally went to where the
defendant was. But now, people were traveling more.
Witnesses can only be
compelled to come to a trial if they are in the State. In a case such
as this one, if Pawloski was forced to sue Hess in Pennsylvania (which was
the old way), he would have to convince all the witnesses to come all
the way from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, and that would be unfair.
With the advent of the car, defendants were more often found in other
States, so the system established in Pennoyer was becoming unworkable.