World-Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson
444 U.S. 286, 100 S. Ct. 559, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490 (1980)
Robinson bought a car in New
York while he was a New York resident. As he was moving to Arizona (so he
was no longer a New York resident) he was involved in an accident in
Robinson sued the automobile
manufacture (Audi), the importer (Volkswagen), the distributor (World-Wide
Volkswagen) and the retailer (Seaway) in Oklahoma district court claiming
World-Wide and Seaway
entered a special appearance in
Oklahoma and claimed that under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, Oklahoma
did not have jurisdiction.
Neither World-Wide nor
Seaway did business in Oklahoma.
The Trial Court found that
they did have jurisdiction in this case, and that World-Wide could be sued
in Oklahoma court. World-Wide appealed.
Audi and Volkswagon chose
not to appeal.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court
affirmed. World-Wide appealed.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court
found that Oklahoma had a long arm statute that authorized the
"A court may exercise
personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent,
causing torturous injury in Oklahoma by an act of omission outside
Oklahoma if he regularly does or solicits business in Oklahoma."
The Court found that since
cars are mobile, it is certainly foreseeable that one would be driven to
Oklahoma, therefore it is reasonable to infer that World-Wide derives
income from cars that are from time to time used in Oklahoma.
US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that a State Court could exercise in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident if there exist
between the defendant and that State.
This protects defendants
from the burdens of litigation in a distant state, and acts to insure
that States do not reach out beyond the limits imposed on them by their
status as coequal sovereigns in a federal system.
The Court noted that since
the advent of cars, most business is conducted across state lines, and
the jurisdictional rules have relaxed a bit. However, this relaxation
does not mean that the jurisdictional rules are to be done away with
The Court found "a
total absence of affiliating circumstances" between World-Wide and
The Court found that
foreseeability alone is not enough to create minimum contacts necessary for in personam jurisdiction.
In a dissent it was argued
that the Court did not weigh the strength of the State's interest in the
case. The State has a legitimate interest in enforcing its laws and
keeping its highway system safe, and the trial can proceed as efficiently
in Oklahoma as anywhere else.
Five factors that must be
considered when determining the forum:
Interest of defendant
Interest of plaintiff
Interest of the State of
Convenience of litigants
Btw, you can write into a
contract a choice-of-forum clause,
which basically says that if you are going to sue, you must sue in a
particular state. These are generally enforceable. But World-Wide
Volkswagon did not have this clause in their sales contract.
Btw, if you are a plaintiff's
lawyer, you want all possible defendants in the room at the same time,
that way they will blame each other and make your case for you. Not
having all the defendants in the room allows the ones you are currently
suing to blame the guy that you aren't currently suing.