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Litigation: Jurisdiction by association: Defining the limits of due process

The current “conspiracy theory of personal jurisdiction” has been criticized, and rejected, by courts for myriad reasons.

To determine whether a nonresident defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction within the limits of the constitution, a two-part analysis is used that considers whether the defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state and whether these contacts comport with due process, such that the nonresident defendant should “reasonably anticipate being hailed into court” in the forum, decided in Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz (1985) and World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson (1980). Although this test traditionally considers the nonresident defendant’s direct contacts with the forum, plaintiffs continue to contend that jurisdiction can be created through allegations of a conspiracy — that a non-resident defendant is subjected to jurisdiction based solely on the acts of his alleged co-conspirator over whom jurisdiction does exist.

The “conspiracy theory of personal jurisdiction” has been criticized, and rejected, by courts for myriad reasons. Many courts maintain that the theory vitiates the rigorous requirements of due process by subjecting a defendant to jurisdiction in a forum to which he has no relationship based on mere allegations that the defendant conspired with someone who has sufficient contacts, such as Silver Valley Partners LLC v. De Motte and Paolino v. Argyll Equities, L.L.C. Courts have also reasoned that a nonresident defendant’s contacts with the jurisdiction must be analyzed separately and an alleged participation in a conspiracy cannot be a substitute for his sufficient minimum contacts with the forum, found in Brown v. Kerkhoff.

Contributing Author

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Sammantha Clegg

Sammantha Clegg is an associate in BakerHostetler’s New York office.  She concentrates her practice on complex commercial litigation, including data breach class action defense, labor...

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