Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Ltd. - 308 U.S. 165 (1939)
U.S. Supreme Court
Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Ltd., 308 U.S. 165 (1939)
Neirbo Co. v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., Ltd.
Argued October 17, 18, 1939
Decided November 22, 1939
308 U.S. 165
1. Section 51 of the Judicial Code, as amended, which provides that
"no civil suit shall be brought in any district court against any person by any original process or proceeding in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant; but, where the jurisdiction is founded only on the fact that the action is between citizens of different States, suit shall be brought only in the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendant,"
merely accords to the defendant a personal privilege of objecting to the venue of suits brought against him in districts wherein, under the section, he may not be compelled to answer. P. 308 U. S. 168.
2. The privilege accorded by § 51 may be lost by failure to assert it seasonably, by formal submission in a cause, or by submission through conduct. P. 308 U. S. 168.
3. Such surrender of the privilege may be regarded negatively as a waiver or positively as a consent to be sued. P. 308 U. S. 168.
4. A designation by a foreign corporation, in conformity with a valid statute of a State and as a condition of doing business within it, of an agent upon whom service of process may be made, held an effective consent to be sued in the federal courts of that State. Pp. 308 U. S. 170, 308 U. S. 174.
5. Prior to the amendment of 1887, the provision was that
"no civil suit shall be brought before either of said courts against any person by any original process or proceeding in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant or in which he shall be found. . . ."
Held, the omission by that amendment of the words "in which he shall be found" was not intended to affect the implications of a consent to be sued, and was not directed toward any change in the status of a corporate litigant. Ex parte Schollberger, 96 U. S. 369, and Southern Pacific Co. v. Denton, 146 U. S. 202, reconciled. P. 308 U. S. 171.
6. A State constitutionally may require a foreign corporation, as a condition of doing a local business, to designate an agent upon whom service of process may be made. P. 308 U. S. 175.
7. The finding in this case that the foreign corporation, by its designation under the state law of an agent for the service of process, had consented to be sued in the courts of the State, federal as well as state, is not a subjection of federal procedure to the requirements of state law, but a recognition that state legislation and consent of parties may bring about a state of facts which will authorize the federal courts to take cognizance of a case. P. 308 U. S. 175.
103 F.2d 765 reversed.
Certiorari, 307 U.S. 619, to review the affirmance of an order of the district court quashing service of process on the respondent corporation and dismissing as to it the petitioners' bill.