Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Milestones: Perkins v. Benguet Consolidated Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952)


Defendant Benguet Mining owned gold and silver mines in the Philippines, and temporarily relocated to Ohio while Imperial Japan occupied the Philippines. In Ohio, Benguet was sued. Through appeal, Ohio Supreme Court held that Benguet was a foreign corporation, but Ohio had general jurisdiction over Benguet because regularly conducting business in Ohio. The Supreme Court of the United States held the same:  
"if an authorized representative of a foreign corporation be physically present in the state of the forum and be there engaged in activities appropriate to accepting service or receiving notice on its behalf, we recognize that there is no unfairness in subjecting that corporation to the jurisdiction of the courts of that state through such service of process upon that representative."

An important caveat: because of the recent Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. ___ (2014), Benguet is almost certainly no longer good law, at least to the extent that it holds having an agent to receive service in a forum subject the corporation to the general jurisdiction of that forum. This case is better understood as one of the high-water marks of the "doing business" general jurisdiction, which is currently going through a low-water period. Daimler, however, does leave open the possibility that there is some remainder general jurisdiction for corporations that are essentially "at home" in a forum--the standard under which the defendant Benguet may have qualified.

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