Ins. Co. of Ireland v. Compagnie Des Bauxites
456 U.S. 694 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ins. Co. of Ireland v. Compagnie Des Bauxites, 456 U.S. 694 (1982)

Insurance Corporation of Ireland, Ltd. v.

Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee

No. 81-440

Argued March 23, 1982

Decided June 1, 1982

456 U.S. 694


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) provides that a district court, as a sanction for failure to comply with discovery orders, may enter

"[a]n order that the matters regarding which the [discovery] order was made or any other designated facts shall be taken to be established for the purposes of the action in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order."

Asserting diversity jurisdiction, respondent, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in the Republic of Guinea, filed suit against various insurance companies in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to recover on a business interruption policy. When certain of the defendants (a group of foreign insurance companies, including petitioners) raised the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction, respondent attempted to use discovery in order to establish jurisdictional facts. After petitioners repeatedly failed to comply with the court's orders for production of the requested information, the court warned them that, unless they complied by a specified date, it would assume, pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A), that it had personal jurisdiction. When petitioners again failed to comply, the court imposed the sanction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that imposition of the sanction fell within the trial court's discretion under Rule 37(b)(2)(A) and that the sanction did not violate petitioners' due process rights.


1. Rule 37(b)(2)(A) may be applied to support a finding of personal jurisdiction without violating due process. Unlike subject matter jurisdiction, which is an Art. III as well as a statutory requirement, the requirement that a court have personal jurisdiction flows from the Due Process Clause and protects an individual liberty interest. Because it protects an individual interest, it may be intentionally waived, or, for various reasons, a defendant may be estopped from raising the issue. Due process is violated by a rule establishing legal consequences of a failure to produce evidence only if the defendant's behavior will not support the presumption that

"the refusal to produce evidence material to the administration of due process was but an admission of the want of merit in

Page 456 U. S. 695

the asserted defense."

Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas, 212 U. S. 322, 212 U. S. 351. A proper application of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) will, as a matter of law, support such a presumption. Pp. 456 U. S. 701-707.

2. The District Court did not abuse its discretion in applying Rule 37(b)(2)(A) in this case. The record establishes that imposition of the sanction here satisfied the Rule's requirements that the sanction be both "just" and specifically related to the particular "claim" that was at issue in the discovery order. Pp. 456 U. S. 707-709.

651 F.2d 877, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 456 U. S. 709.

Primary Holding
Allowing a court to address the issue of personal jurisdiction means that a party must abide by that court's decision and cannot raise the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction in retrospect. Also, a court can use a finding of personal jurisdiction to sanction a recalcitrant defendant.
After a dispute over insurance coverage, Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee brought a claim in federal court against several insurers. One of these was the Insurance Corporation of Ireland, which argued that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over it. It also refused to comply with discovery requests by Compagnie, which included copies of the relevant types of insurance policies that it had provided over a three-year period. (These materials were deemed to be relevant in determining what contacts the insurance company had with the forum state.) The court issued several warnings to the Irish company and held hearings on the matter, but ultimately it resolved that there was personal jurisdiction over the Irish company by using its sanctioning power under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37.



  • Byron Raymond White (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist
  • John Paul Stevens
  • Sandra Day O'Connor

Since personal jurisdiction is a personal right, defendants may waive it expressly or through implication, and they may be prevented from asserting it. Since the defendant specially appeared in the court's jurisdiction, it submitted to its authority on determining whether personal jurisdiction existed and was bound to comply with that order as well as orders related to its determination. Non-compliance with the related discovery order was a sufficient reason to find that jurisdiction was proper.


  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. (Author)

This case could have been resolved under the minimum contacts test for determining whether the state long-arm statute and constitutional due process support personal jurisdiction. By failing to use this test, especially when substantial evidence of minimum contacts had been provided, the court raises the concern that this standard is not as clear or as broadly applicable as it had appeared.

Case Commentary

In contrast to subject matter jurisdiction, which relates to the authority of a court to act, personal jurisdiction can be waived because it is the right of an individual.

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