Weathington Attorneys David Hanson and Zach Fuller authored an amicus brief on behalf of The Georgia Defense Lawyers Association (GDLA) in support of certiorari in a pivotal personal jurisdiction case.
On September 4, 2020, the amicus brief was filed in the Supreme Court of Georgia in support of the Petitioner Cooper Tire’s petition for certiorari in Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. McCall, No. S20C1368 (Ga. Sup. Ct. June 22, 2020).
The case arises out of an automobile accident that occurred in Florida. In the lower court, the plaintiff—a Florida resident—alleged that one of Petitioner’s tires contributed to the accident. Although the accident occurred in Florida, the tires were constructed in Arkansas, and Cooper Tire is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Ohio, the plaintiff was able to file suit in Georgia under existing Georgia precedent to take advantage of Georgia’s seatbelt law. At the trial level, Cooper Tire moved to dismiss on the grounds of personal jurisdiction under controlling Supreme Court of the United States precedent. The trial court agreed. The Court of Appeals then reversed this decision, holding that Cooper Tire’s registration to do business in Georgia was sufficient to assert general personal jurisdiction over the foreign corporation under Georgia Supreme Court case, Allstate Ins. Co. v. Klein, 262 Ga. 599 (1992).
As it stands, this decision ignores a subsequent line of United States Supreme Court decisions that make clear that general personal jurisdiction can only be conferred over corporations where that corporation is found to be “at home,” i.e. the corporation’s place of incorporation, principal place of business, or in exceptional cases where the corporation’s contacts are so great with a state that it renders the corporation essentially at home in that state. BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 2549 (2017); Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014); Goodyear Dunlop Tires Ops., S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915 (2011). Eight state supreme courts have considered this issue in the wake of the United States Supreme Court precedent, and all eight have aligned themselves with the controlling precedent. Similarly the courts in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 11th circuits all agree that mere registration to do business in a state is insufficient when asserting general personal jurisdiction over a foreign company.
The amicus brief filed on behalf of GDLA argues that Georgia must revisit Klein to ensure that our state complies with the controlling interpretation of the United States Constitution. Allowing any corporation that is registered to do business in Georgia to be hauled into court in our state provides no benefit to this state. Rather, GDLA’s brief explains that this decision will result in judiciary overcrowding, improper forum shopping, economic hardship, and Fourteenth Amendment due process violations. This is not an instance where Georgia benefits from being an outlier, and the GDLA brief urges the Georgia Supreme Court to follow the lead of sister states and federal district courts in aligning Georgia law with United Supreme Court precedent.
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