Daimler AG v. Bauman
571 U.S. ___ (2014)

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Justia Opinion Summary
Residents of Argentina sued Daimler, a German company, in a California federal district court, alleging that Mercedes-Benz Argentina, a Daimler subsidiary, collaborated with state security forces during Argentina’s 1976–1983 “Dirty War” to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill MB Argentina workers, related to the plaintiffs. They asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, and under California and Argentina law. Personal jurisdiction was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), another Daimler subsidiary, incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey. MBUSA distributes Daimler-manufactured vehicles to independent U.S. dealerships, including some in California. The district court dismissed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that MBUSA, which it assumed to fall within the California courts’ all-purpose jurisdiction, was Daimler’s “agent” for jurisdictional purposes. The Supreme Court reversed. Daimler is not amenable to suit in California for injuries allegedly caused by MB Argentina outside the U.S. California’s long-arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the U. S. Constitution. Even if California is home to MBUSA, Daimler’s affiliations with California are not sufficient to subject it to the general jurisdiction of that State’s courts. The proper inquiry is whether a foreign corporation’s “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Neither Daimler nor MBUSA is incorporated in California; neither has its principal place of business there. If Daimler’s California activities sufficed to allow adjudication of this case in California, the same global reach would presumably be available in every other state in which MBUSA’s sales are sizable.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

DAIMLER AG v. BAUMAN et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 11–965. Argued October 15, 2013—Decided January 14, 2014

Plaintiffs (respondents here) are twenty-two residents of Argentina who filed suit in California Federal District Court, naming as a defendant DaimlerChrysler Aktiengesellschaft (Daimler), a German public stock company that is the predecessor to petitioner Daimler AG. Their complaint alleges that Mercedes-Benz Argentina (MB Argentina), an Argentinian subsidiary of Daimler, collaborated with state security forces during Argentina’s 1976–1983 “Dirty War” to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill certain MB Argentina workers, among them, plaintiffs or persons closely related to plaintiffs. Based on those allegations, plaintiffs asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, as well as under California and Argentina law. Personal jurisdiction over Daimler was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA), another Daimler subsidiary, one incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New Jersey. MBUSA distributes Daimler-manufactured vehicles to independent dealerships throughout the United States, including California. Daimler moved to dismiss the action for want of personal jurisdiction. Opposing that motion, plaintiffs argued that jurisdiction over Daimler could be founded on the California contacts of MBUSA. The District Court granted Daimler’s motion to dismiss. Reversing the District Court’s judgment, the Ninth Circuit held that MBUSA, which it assumed to fall within the California courts’ all-purpose jurisdiction, was Daimler’s “agent” for jurisdictional purposes, so that Daimler, too, should generally be answerable to suit in that State.

Held: Daimler is not amenable to suit in California for injuries allegedly caused by conduct of MB Argentina that took place entirely outside the United States. Pp. 6–24.

     (a) California’s long-arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the U. S. Constitution. Thus, the inquiry here is whether the Ninth Circuit’s holding comports with the limits imposed by federal due process. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 4(k)(1)(A). P. 6.

     (b) For a time, this Court held that a tribunal’s jurisdiction over persons was necessarily limited by the geographic bounds of the forum. See Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U. S. 714 . That rigidly territorial focus eventually yielded to a less wooden understanding, exemplified by the Court’s pathmarking decision in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U. S. 310 . International Shoe presaged the recognition of two personal jurisdiction categories: One category, today called “specific jurisdiction,” see Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown, 564 U. S. ___, ___, encompasses cases in which the suit “arise[s] out of or relate[s] to the defendant’s contacts with the forum,” Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall, 466 U. S. 408 , n. 8. International Shoe distinguished exercises of specific, case-based jurisdiction from a category today known as “general jurisdiction,” exercisable when a foreign corporation’s “continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.” 326 U. S., at 318.

     Since International Shoe, “specific jurisdiction has become the centerpiece of modern jurisdiction theory.” Goodyear, 564 U. S., at ___. This Court’s general jurisdiction opinions, in contrast, have been few. See Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U. S. 437 , Helicopteros, 466 U. S., at 416, and Goodyear, 564 U. S., at ___. As is evident from these post-International Shoe decisions, while specific jurisdiction has been cut loose from Pennoyer’s sway, general jurisdiction has not been stretched beyond limits traditionally recognized. Pp. 6–14.

     (c) Even assuming, for purposes of this decision, that MBUSA qualifies as at home in California, Daimler’s affiliations with California are not sufficient to subject it to the general jurisdiction of that State’s courts. Pp. 14–23.

          (1)  Whatever role agency theory might play in the context of general jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals’ analysis in this case cannot be sustained. The Ninth Circuit’s agency determination rested primarily on its observation that MBUSA’s services were “important” to Daimler, as gauged by Daimler’s hypothetical readiness to perform those services itself if MBUSA did not exist. But if “importan[ce]” in this sense were sufficient to justify jurisdictional attribution, foreign corporations would be amenable to suit on any or all claims wherever they have an in-state subsidiary or affiliate, an outcome that would sweep beyond even the “sprawling view of general jurisdiction” rejected in Goodyear. 564 U. S., at ___. Pp. 15–17.

          (2) Even assuming that MBUSA is at home in California and that MBUSA’s contacts are imputable to Daimler, there would still be no basis to subject Daimler to general jurisdiction in California. The paradigm all-purpose forums for general jurisdiction are a corporation’s place of incorporation and principal place of business. Goodyear, 564 U. S., at ___. Plaintiffs’ reasoning, however, would reach well beyond these exemplar bases to approve the exercise of general jurisdiction in every State in which a corporation “engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business.” Brief for Respondents 16–17, and nn. 7–8. The words “continuous and systematic,” plaintiffs and the Court of Appeals overlooked, were used in International Shoe to describe situations in which the exercise of specific jurisdiction would be appropriate. See 326 U. S., at 317. With respect to all-purpose jurisdiction, International Shoe spoke instead of “instances in which the continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit . . . on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.” Id., at 318. Accordingly, the proper inquiry, this Court has explained, is whether a foreign corporation’s “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Goodyear, 564 U. S., at ___.

     Neither Daimler nor MBUSA is incorporated in California, nor does either entity have its principal place of business there. If Daimler’s California activities sufficed to allow adjudication of this Argentina-rooted case in California, the same global reach would presumably be available in every other State in which MBUSA’s sales are sizable. No decision of this Court sanctions a view of general jurisdiction so grasping. The Ninth Circuit, therefore, had no warrant to conclude that Daimler, even with MBUSA’s contacts attributed to it, was at home in California, and hence subject to suit there on claims by foreign plaintiffs having nothing to do with anything that occurred or had its principal impact in California. Pp. 18–21.

          (3) Finally, the transnational context of this dispute bears attention. This Court’s recent precedents have rendered infirm plaintiffs’ Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act claims. See Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 569 U. S. ___, ___, and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, 566 U. S. ___, ___. The Ninth Circuit, moreover, paid little heed to the risks to international comity posed by its expansive view of general jurisdiction. Pp. 22–23.

644 F. 3d 909, reversed.

     Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

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