Andy Pieper Quoted on Supreme Court Decision Over Jurisdiction in Which a Business May Face a Lawsuit

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In a recent article, Minnesota-based litigation partner Andy Pieper provided Minnesota Lawyer with his insights on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern, which confronted the question of whether a business may be subject to general personal jurisdiction in a state by virtue of its registration to do business in that state.

The case concerns a railroad employee who claimed that his exposure to carcinogens as a mechanic led to a cancer diagnosis. The employee sued the railroad in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that he is a Virginia resident and the railroad is incorporated and has its headquarters in Virginia. The railroad objected on grounds that Pennsylvania courts could not maintain personal jurisdiction over it; the employee, however, pointed to Pennsylvania law that says a business subjects itself to the jurisdiction of the state’s courts by virtue of its registration to do business. As a result, the railroad pushed back on that interpretation, arguing that it would violate its due process rights.

In its opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately held that a business can subject itself to a lawsuit in a state other than where it is incorporated or holds its principal place of business, which litigator Pieper cites as a “…departure from what has generally been accepted as the contours of general personal jurisdiction.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will have the greatest impact in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Georgia, and others where out-of-state businesses must consent to jurisdiction as a condition of their registration to do business in those states.

For his part, Pieper is advising his clients to take preemptive steps, including to “remove any registrations in states where the company just doesn’t need them or is maintaining for legacy business lines that just are not applicable anymore.”

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