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Civil Procedure Fall 2014

Introduction to Long-Arm Statutes

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While Hess established the right of states to exercise jurisdiction over non-resident defendants in certain circumstances (e.g., when operating dangerous motor vehicles on such state’s roads), International Shoe articulated the Constitutional Due Process limits on the exercise of jurisdiction based on a non-resident defendant’s contacts with the forum.  Drawing from these two cases, states began to pass legislation that subjected more non-residents (beyond just out-of-state drivers) to the jurisdiction of their courts for certain acts either occurring in or impacting the state and/or its residents. Statutes giving effect to the Constitutional authority to subject non-resident defendants to the jurisdiction of state courts in certain circumstances are called “long-arm statutes” and come in two general varieties. 

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The first variety of long-arm statute premises jurisdiction on the certain enumerated acts of the defendant which have either been performed in the forum state or which have impacted the forum state. Again, as we saw in International Shoe, there are Constitutional limits on what actions states can use as a basis for jurisdiction over non-resident defendants, so such enumerated long-arms must not authorize jurisdiction beyond the limits set by the Due Process Clause. The second and more straightforward type of long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution and is therefore co-extensive with the Constitutional grant of authority.

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Illinois enacted the first comprehensive long-arm statute based on the enumerated acts model. Under the Illinois long-arm, an individual (or corporation) is subject to the jurisdiction of Illinois courts if he transacts any business within the state; commits a tort within the state; owns, uses, or possesses any real estate within the state; or contracts to insure any person, property, or risk located within the state. The statute was later amended to also authorize jurisdiction over claims involving alimony, support, and property division against former residents. 

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New York’s long arm (N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. & R. § 302) is also of the first variety:

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Personal jurisdiction by acts of non-domiciliaries.

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(a) Acts which are the basis of jurisdiction. As to a cause of action arising from any of the acts enumerated in this section, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over any non-domiciliary, or his executor or administrator, who in person or through an agent:

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(1) transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state; or

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(2) commits a tortious act within the state, except as to a cause of action for defamation of character arising from the act; or

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(3) commits a tortious act without the state causing injury to person or property within the state, except as to a cause of action for defamation of character arising from the act, if he

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    (i) regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in the state, or

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    (ii) expects or should reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state and derives substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce; or

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(4) owns, uses or possesses any real property situated within the state . . .

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Similarly, the Uniform Interstate and International Procedure Act adopts an enumerated approach (§1.03, 13 U.L.A. 355 (1986 ed.) [Personal Jurisdiction Based on Conduct]):

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(a) A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a [cause of action] [claim for relief] arising from the person's

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(1) transacting any business in this state;

(2) contracting to supply services or things in this state;

(3) causing tortious injury by an act or omission in this state;
(4) causing tortious injury in this state by an act or omission outside this state if he regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in this state; [or]
(5) having an interest in, using, or possessing real property in this state ; [or]
(6) contracting to insure any person, property, or risk located within this state at the time of contracting.

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(b) When jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a [cause of action] [claim for relief] arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against him.

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When considering jurisdiction premised on an enumerated acts long-arm, the inquiry has two parts:

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First, does the conduct in question fall within one of the statute’s enumerated grounds for the exercise of jurisdiction? This is a purely a question of statutory interpretation.

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Second, is the exercise of jurisdiction within the Constitutional limits set in International Shoe?

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The answer to both questions must be affirmative for jurisdiction to be proper under an enumerated long-arm.

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Many states have adopted long-arms of the second variety. Rhode Island’s long-arm (R.I. St. 9-5-33) is one example:

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“Every foreign corporation, every individual not a resident of this state or his executor or administrator, and every partnership or association, composed of any person or persons, not such residents, that shall have the necessary minimum contacts with the state of Rhode Island, shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the state of Rhode Island, and the courts of this state shall hold such foreign corporations and such nonresident individuals or their executors or administrators, and such partnerships or associations amenable to suit in Rhode Island in every case not contrary to the provisions of the constitution or laws of the United States.”

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California’s long arm (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 410.10) provides more concisely:

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“A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.”

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With Constitutionally co-extensive long-arms, the jurisdictional inquiry is collapsed: you only have to determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with Constitutional limits. The statutory interpretation step is not implicated.