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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ROBERT MALLORY, PETITIONER v.
SOUTHERN RAILWAY CO.
on writ of certiorari to the supreme court of
pennsylvania, eastern district
[June 27, 2023]
Justice Gorsuch announced the judgment of the
Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts
I and III–B, and an opinion with respect to Parts II,
III–A, and IV, in which Justice Thomas, Justice Sotomayor,
and Justice Jackson join.
Imagine a lawsuit based on recent events. A few
months ago, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Ohio near the
Pennsylvania border. Its cargo? Hazardous chemicals. Some poured
into a nearby creek; some burst into flames. In the aftermath, many
residents reported unusual symptoms.[1
] Suppose an Ohio resident sued the train conductor
seeking compensation for an illness attributed to the accident.
Suppose, too, that the plaintiff served his complaint on the
conductor across the border in Pennsylvania. Everyone before us
agrees a Pennsylvania court could hear that lawsuit consistent with
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court could
do so even if the conductor was a Virginia resident who just
happened to be passing through Pennsylvania when the process server
caught up with him.
Now, change the hypothetical slightly. Imagine
the same Ohio resident brought the same suit in the same
Pennsylvania state court, but this time against Norfolk Southern.
Assume, too, the company has filed paperwork consenting to appear
in Pennsylvania courts as a condition of registering to do business
in the Commonwealth. Could a Pennsylvania court hear that case too?
You might think so. But today, Norfolk Southern argues that the Due
Process Clause entitles it to a more favorable rule, one shielding
it from suits even its employees must answer. We reject the
company’s argument. Nothing in the Due Process Clause
requires such an incongruous result.
Robert Mallory worked for Norfolk Southern as
a freight-car mechanic for nearly 20 years, first in Ohio, then in
Virginia. During his time with the company, Mr. Mallory contends,
he was responsible for spraying boxcar pipes with asbestos and
handling chemicals in the railroad’s paint shop. He also
demolished car interiors that, he alleges, contained
After Mr. Mallory left the company, he moved to
Pennsylvania for a period before returning to Virginia. Along the
way, he was diagnosed with cancer. Attributing his illness to his
work for Norfolk Southern, Mr. Mallory hired Pennsylvania lawyers
and sued his former employer in Pennsylvania state court under the
Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 35 Stat. 65, as amended, 45
U. S. C. §§51–60. That law creates a
workers’ compensation scheme permitting railroad employees to
recover damages for their employers’ negligence. See
Norfolk Southern R. Co.
, 549 U.S.
, 165–166 (2007).
Norfolk Southern resisted Mr. Mallory’s
suit on constitutional grounds. By the time he filed his complaint,
the company observed, Mr. Mallory resided in Virginia. His
complaint alleged that he was exposed to carcinogens in Ohio and
Virginia. Meanwhile, the company itself was incorporated in
Virginia and had its headquarters there too.[2
] On these facts, Norfolk Southern submitted, any
effort by a Pennsylvania court to exercise personal jurisdiction
over it would offend the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Mr. Mallory saw things differently. He noted
that Norfolk Southern manages over 2,000 miles of track, operates
11 rail yards, and runs 3 locomotive repair shops in Pennsylvania.
He also pointed out that Norfolk Southern has registered to do
business in Pennsylvania in light of its
“ ‘regular, systematic, [and]
extensive’ ” operations there. 266 A.3d 542, 562
(Pa. 2021); see 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. §411(a) (2014). That
is significant, Mr. Mallory argued, because Pennsylvania requires
out-of-state companies that register to do business in the
Commonwealth to agree to appear in its courts on “any cause
of action” against them. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§5301(a)(2)(i), (b) (2019); see 266 A. 3d, at 564. By
complying with this statutory scheme, Mr. Mallory contended,
Norfolk Southern had consented to suit in Pennsylvania on claims
just like his.
Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided
with Norfolk Southern. Yes, Mr. Mallory correctly read Pennsylvania
law. It requires an out-of-state firm to answer any suits against
it in exchange for status as a registered foreign corporation and
the benefits that entails. 266 A. 3d, at 561–563. But,
no, the court held, Mr. Mallory could not invoke that law because
it violates the Due Process Clause. Id.
, at 564–568.
In reaching this conclusion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
acknowledged its disagreement with the Georgia Supreme Court, which
had recently rejected a similar due process argument from a
corporate defendant. Id.
, at 560, n. 13 (citing
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
, 312 Ga. 422,
863 S.E.2d 81 (2021)).
In light of this split of authority, we agreed
to hear this case and decide whether the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a State from requiring an
out-of-state corporation to consent to personal jurisdiction to do
business there. 596 U. S. ___ (2022).[3
The question before us is not a new one. In
truth, it is a very old question—and one this Court resolved
in Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co. of Philadelphia
Issue Mining & Milling Co.
, 243 U.S.
(1917). There, the Court unanimously held that laws like
Pennsylvania’s comport with the Due Process Clause. Some
background helps explain why the Court reached the result it
Both at the time of the founding and the
Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption, the Anglo-American legal
tradition recognized that a tribunal’s competence was
generally constrained only by the “territorial limits”
of the sovereign that created it. J. Story, Commentaries on the
Conflict of Laws §539, pp.
(Story); see also United States
v. Union Pacific
, 98 U.S.
, 602–603 (1879). That principle applied to all kinds
of actions, but cashed out differently based on the object of the
court’s attention. So, for example, an action
that claimed an interest in immovable property
was usually treated as a “local
” action that
could be brought only in the jurisdiction where the property was
located. 3 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England
117–118, 294 (1768). Meanwhile, an in personam
against an individual “for injuries that might have happened
any where” was generally considered a
” action that followed the
., at 294. All of which meant that a suit
could be maintained by anyone on any claim in any place the
defendant could be found. Story §538, at 450.
American courts routinely followed these rules.
Chief Justice Marshall, for one, was careful to distinguish between
local and transitory actions in a case brought by a Virginia
plaintiff against a Kentucky defendant based on a fraud perpetrated
in Ohio. Massie
, 6 Cranch 148, 162–163
(1810). Because the action was a transitory one that followed the
individual, he held, the suit could be maintained “wherever
the [defendant] may be found.” Id.
, at 158,
161–163; see also, e.g.
, 15 F. Cas. 660, 663–664 (No. 8,411)
(CC Va. 1811) (opinion of Marshall, C. J.);
, 106 Mass. 217, 220–221
, 9 Mass. 462, 468–470
This rule governing transitory actions still
applies to natural persons today. Some call it “tag”
jurisdiction. And our leading case applying the rule is not so old.
v. Superior Court of Cal.
, County of
, 495 U.S.
(1990). The case began with Dennis Burnham’s business
trip to California. Id.
, at 608 (plurality opinion). During
his short visit, Mr. Burnham’s estranged wife served him with
a summons to appear in California state court for divorce
This Court unanimously approved the state
court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over Mr. Burnham as
consistent with the Due Process Clause—and did so even though
the Burnhams had spent nearly all their married life in New Jersey
and Mr. Burnham still resided there. See id.
607–608, 616–619; id.
, at 628 (White, J.,
concurring in part and concurring in judgment); id.
635–639 (Brennan, J., concurring in judgment); id.
640 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment).
As the use of the corporate form proliferated in
the 19th century, the question arose how to adapt the traditional
rule about transitory actions for individuals to artificial persons
created by law. Unsurprisingly, corporations did not relish the
prospect of being haled into court for any claim anywhere they
conducted business. “No one, after all, has ever liked
greeting the process server.” Ford Motor Co.
Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Court
, 592 U. S. ___, ___
(2021) (Gorsuch, J., concurring in judgment) (slip op., at 7).
Corporations chartered in one State sought the right to send their
sales agents and products freely into other States. At the same
time, when confronted with lawsuits in those other States, some
firms sought to hide behind their foreign character and deny their
presence to defeat the court’s jurisdiction. Ibid.
see Brief for Petitioner 13–15; see also R. Jackson, What
Price “Due Process”?, 5 N. Y. L. Rev. 435,
438 (1927) (describing this as the asserted right to “both be
and not be”).
Lawmakers across the country soon responded to
these stratagems. Relevant here, both before and after the
Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification, they adopted statutes
requiring out-of-state corporations to consent to in-state suits in
exchange for the rights to exploit the local market and to receive
the full range of benefits enjoyed by in-state corporations. These
statutes varied. In some States, out-of-state corporate defendants
were required to agree to answer suits brought by in-state
plaintiffs. See, e.g.
, N. Y. Code Proc. §427
(1849); 1866 Wis. Laws ch. 1, §86.1; Md. Ann. Code, Art. 26,
§211 (1868); N. C. Gen. Stat., ch. 17, §82 (1873).
In other States, corporations were required to consent to suit if
the plaintiff ’s cause of action arose within the State,
even if the plaintiff happened to reside elsewhere. See,
, Iowa Code, ch. 101, §1705 (1851); 1874 Tex. Gen.
Laws p. 107; 1881 Mich. Pub. Acts p. 348. Still other States (and
the federal government) omitted both of these limitations. They
required all out-of-state corporations that registered to do
business in the forum to agree to defend themselves there against
any manner of suit. See, e.g.
, Act of Feb. 22, 1867, 14
Stat. 404; 1889 Nev. Stats. p. 47; S. C. Rev. Stat., Tit. 7,
ch. 45, §1466 (1894); Conn. Gen. Stat. §3931 (1895). Yet
another group of States applied this all-purpose-jurisdiction rule
to a subset of corporate defendants, like railroads and insurance
companies. See, e.g.
, 1827 Va. Acts ch. 74, p. 77; 1841 Pa.
Laws p. 29; 1854 Ohio Laws p. 91; Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 112,
§68 (1855); Ark. Stat., ch. 76, §3561 (1873); Mo. Rev.
Stat., ch. 119, Art. 4, §6013 (1879). Mr. Mallory has
collected an array of these statutes, enacted between 1835 and
1915, in his statutory appendix. See App. to Brief for Petitioner
Unsurprisingly, some corporations challenged
statutes like these on various grounds, due process included. And,
ultimately, one of these disputes reached this Court in
That case arose this way. Pennsylvania Fire was
an insurance company incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania.
In 1909, the company executed a contract in Colorado to insure a
smelter located near the town of Cripple Creek owned by the Gold
Issue Mining & Milling Company, an Arizona corporation. Gold
Issue Min. & Milling Co.
v. Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co.
, 267 Mo. 524, 537, 184 S.W. 999, 1001 (1916). Less
than a year later, lightning struck and a fire destroyed the
insured facility. Ibid.
When Gold Issue Mining sought to
collect on its policy, Pennsylvania Fire refused to pay. So, Gold
Issue Mining sued. But it did not sue where the contract was formed
(Colorado), or in its home State (Arizona), or even in the
insurer’s home State (Pennsylvania). Instead, Gold Issue
Mining brought its claim in a Missouri state court. Id.
534, 184 S. W., at 1000. Pennsylvania Fire objected to this
choice of forum. It said the Due Process Clause spared it from
having to answer in Missouri’s courts a suit with no
connection to the State. Id.
, at 541, 184 S. W., at
The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed. It first
observed that Missouri law required any out-of-state insurance
company “desiring to transact any business” in the
State to file paperwork agreeing to (1) appoint a state official to
serve as the company’s agent for service of process, and (2)
accept service on that official as valid in any suit. Id.
at 543, 184 S. W., at 1003 (internal quotation marks omitted).
For more than a decade, Pennsylvania Fire had complied with the
law, as it had “desir[ed] to transact business” in
Missouri “pursuant to the laws thereof.” Id.
545, 184 S. W., at 1003. And Gold Issue Mining had served
process on the appropriate state official, just as the law
required. See id.
, at 535, 184 S. W., at 1000.
As to the law’s constitutionality, the
Missouri Supreme Court carefully reviewed this Court’s
precedents and found they “clearly” supported
“sustain[ing] the proceeding.” Id
., at 569, 576,
184 S. W., at 1010, 1013; see id.
, at 552–576,
601, 184 S. W., at 1005–1013, 1020–1021. The
Missouri Supreme Court explained that its decision was also
supported by “the origin, growth, and history of transitory
actions in England, and their importation, adoption, and
expansion” in America. Id.
, at 578–586, 184
S. W., at 1013–1016. It stressed, too, that the law had
long permitted suits against individuals in any jurisdiction where
they could be found, no matter where the underlying cause of action
happened to arise. What sense would it make to treat a fictitious
corporate person differently? See id.
, at 588–592,
600, 184 S. W., at 1016–1018, 1020. For all these
reasons, the court concluded, Pennsylvania Fire “ha[d] due
process of law, regardless of the place, state or nation where the
cause of action arose.” Id.
, at 576, 184 S. W.,
Dissatisfied with this answer, Pennsylvania Fire
turned here. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Holmes had
little trouble dispatching the company’s due process
argument. Under this Court’s precedents, there was “no
doubt” Pennsylvania Fire could be sued in Missouri by an
out-of-state plaintiff on an out-of-state contract because it had
agreed to accept service of process in Missouri on any suit as a
condition of doing business there. Pennsylvania Fire
U. S., at 95. Indeed, the Court thought the matter so settled
by existing law that the case “hardly” presented an
“open” question. Ibid.
The Court acknowledged
that the outcome might have been different if the corporation had
never appointed an agent for service of process in Missouri, given
this Court’s earlier decision in Old Wayne Mut. Life Assn.
, 204 U.S.
(1907). But the Court thought that Old Wayne
“left untouched” the principle that due process allows
a corporation to be sued on any claim in a State where it has
appointed an agent to receive whatever suits may come. 243
U. S., at 95–96. The Court found it unnecessary to say
more because the company’s objections had been resolved
“at length in the judgment of the court below.”
, at 95.
That assessment was understandable. Not only had
the Missouri Supreme Court issued a thoughtful opinion. Not only
did a similar rule apply to transitory actions against individuals.
Other leading judges, including Learned Hand and Benjamin Cardozo,
had reached similar conclusions in similar cases in the years
leading up to Pennsylvania Fire
. See Smolik
Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co.
, 222 F. 148,
150–151 (SDNY 1915) (Hand, J.); Bagdon
Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co.
, 217 N.Y.
432, 436–437, 111 N.E. 1075, 1076–1077 (1916) (Cardozo,
J.). In the years following Pennsylvania Fire
, too, this
Court reaffirmed its holding as often as the issue arose. See,
, Louisville & Nashville R. Co.
, 279 U.S.
, 325–326 (1929); Neirbo Co.
, 308 U.S.
, 175 (1939); see also Robert Mitchell Furniture Co.
v. Selden Breck Constr. Co.
, 257 U.S.
, 215–216 (1921); Wuchter
, 20 (1928).
controls this case.
Much like the Missouri law at issue there, the Pennsylvania law at
issue here provides that an out-of-state corporation “may not
do business in this Commonwealth until it registers with” the
Department of State. 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. §411(a). As part of
the registration process, a corporation must identify an
“office” it will “continuously maintain” in
the Commonwealth. §411(f ); see also §412(a)(5).
Upon completing these requirements, the corporation “shall
enjoy the same rights and privileges as a domestic entity and shall
be subject to the same liabilities, restrictions, duties and
penalties . . . imposed on domestic entities.”
§402(d). Among other things, Pennsylvania law is explicit that
“qualification as a foreign corporation” shall permit
state courts to “exercise general personal
jurisdiction” over a registered foreign corporation, just as
they can over domestic corporations. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.
Norfolk Southern has complied with this law for
many years. In 1998, the company registered to do business in
Pennsylvania. Acting through its Corporate Secretary as a
“duly authorized officer,” the company completed an
“Application for Certificate of Authority” from the
Commonwealth “[i]n compliance with” state law. App.
1–2. As part of that process, the company named a
“Commercial Registered Office Provider” in Philadelphia
County, agreeing that this was where it “shall be deemed
. . . located.” Ibid.
The Secretary of the
Commonwealth approved the application, conferring on Norfolk
Southern both the benefits and burdens shared by domestic
corporations—including amenability to suit in state court on
any claim. Id.
, at 1. Since 1998, Norfolk Southern has
regularly updated its information on file with the Secretary. In
2009, for example, the company advised that it had changed its
Registered Office Provider and would now be deemed located in
Dauphin County. Id.
, at 6; see 15 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§4144(b) (1988). All told, then, Norfolk Southern has agreed
to be found in Pennsylvania and answer any suit there for more than
held that suits
premised on these grounds do not deny a defendant due process of
law. Even Norfolk Southern does not seriously dispute that much. It
concedes that it registered to do business in Pennsylvania, that it
established an office there to receive service of process, and that
in doing so it understood it would be amenable to suit on any
claim. Tr. of Oral Arg. 62; post
, at 2 (Alito, J.,
concurring in part and concurring in judgment); post
2–3 (Jackson, J., concurring). Of course, Mr. Mallory no
longer lives in Pennsylvania and his cause of action did not accrue
there. But none of that makes any more difference than the fact
that Gold Issue Mining was not from Missouri (but from Arizona) and
its claim did not arise there (but in Colorado). See
, 267 Mo., at 537, 184 S. W., at 1001.
To decide this case, we need not speculate whether any other
statutory scheme and set of facts would suffice to establish
consent to suit. It is enough to acknowledge that the state law and
facts before us fall squarely within Pennsylvania
’s rule. See post
, at 2–4 (opinion of
In the proceedings below, the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court seemed to recognize that Pennsylvania Fire
dictated an answer in Mr. Mallory’s favor. Still, it ruled
for Norfolk Southern anyway. It did so because, in its view,
intervening decisions from this Court had “implicitly
overruled” Pennsylvania Fire
. See 266 A. 3d, at
559, 567. But in following that course, the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court clearly erred. As this Court has explained: “If a
precedent of this Court has direct application in a case,” as
does here, a lower court “should
follow the case which directly controls, leaving to this Court the
prerogative of overruling its own decisions.” Rodriguez de
v. Shearson/American Express
, 484 (1989). This is true even if the lower court thinks
the precedent is in tension with “some other line of
Now before us, Norfolk Southern candidly asks
us to do what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could
not—overrule Pennsylvania Fire
. Brief for Respondent
36–38. To smooth the way, Norfolk Southern suggests that this
Court’s decision in International Shoe Co.
, 326 U.S.
(1945), has already done much of the hard work for us. That
decision, the company insists, seriously undermined Pennsylvania
’s foundations. Brief for Respondent 34–36. We
disagree. The two precedents sit comfortably side by side. See
, at 4 (opinion of Alito, J.).
Start with how Norfolk Southern sees things.
On the company’s telling, echoed by the dissent,
held that the Due Process Clause
tolerates two (and only two) types of personal jurisdiction over a
corporate defendant. First, “specific jurisdiction”
permits suits that “ ‘arise out of or relate
to’ ” a corporate defendant’s activities in
the forum State. Ford Motor Co.
, 592 U. S., at
___–___ (slip op., at 5–6). Second, “general
jurisdiction” allows all kinds of suits against a
corporation, but only in States where the corporation is
incorporated or has its “principal place of business.”
, at ___ (slip op., at 5). After International
, Norfolk Southern insists, no other bases for personal
jurisdiction over a corporate defendant are permissible. Brief for
Respondent 13–15; see post
, at 2–4 (Barrett, J.,
But if this account might seem a plausible
summary of some of our International Shoe
oversimplifies matters. Here is what really happened in
. The State of Washington sued a corporate
defendant in state court for claims based on its in-state
activities even though the defendant had not
do business in Washington and had not
agreed to be present
and accept service of process there. 326 U. S., at
312–313. Despite this, the Court held that the suit against
the company comported with due process. In doing so, the Court
reasoned that the Fourteenth Amendment “permit[s]”
suits against a corporate defendant that has not agreed to be
“presen[t] within the territorial jurisdiction of a
court,” so long as “the quality and nature of the
[company’s] activity” in the State “make it
reasonable and just” to maintain suit there. Id.
316, 319–320. Put simply, even without agreeing to be
present, the out-of-state corporation was still amenable to suit in
Washington consistent with “ ‘fair play and
substantial justice’ ”—terms the Court
borrowed from Justice Holmes, the author of Pennsylvania
. International Shoe
, 326 U. S., at 316 (citing
, 243 U.S.
, 91–92 (1917)).
In reality, then, all International Shoe
did was stake out an additional
road to jurisdiction over
out-of-state corporations. Pennsylvania Fire
held that an
out-of-state corporation that has
consented to in-state
suits in order to do business in the forum is susceptible to suit
there. International Shoe
held that an out-of-state
corporation that has not
consented to in-state suits may
also be susceptible to claims in the forum State based on
“the quality and nature of [its] activity” in the
forum. 326 U. S., at 319. Consistent with all this, our
precedents applying International Shoe
have long spoken of
the decision as asking whether a state court may exercise
jurisdiction over a corporate defendant “ ‘that
has not consented
to suit in the forum.’ ”
Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations
, S. A.
, 564 U.S.
, 927–928 (2011) (emphasis added); see also Daimler
, 571 U.S.
, 129 (2014). Our precedents have recognized, too, that
“express or implied consent” can continue to ground
personal jurisdiction—and consent may be manifested in
various ways by word or deed. See, e.g.
, Insurance Corp.
v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee
, 703 (1982); BNSF R. Co.
, 581 U.S.
402, 415 (2017).
See also post
, at 4 (opinion of
That Norfolk Southern overreads International
finds confirmation in that decision’s emphasis on
“ ‘fair play and substantial
justice.’ ” 326 U. S., at 316. Sometimes,
said, the nature of a company’s
in-state activities will support jurisdiction over a nonconsenting
corporation when those activities “give rise to the
liabilities sued on.” Id.
, at 317. Other times, it
added, suits “on causes of action arising from dealings
entirely distinct from [the company’s] activities” in
the forum State may be appropriate. Id.
, at 318. These
passages may have pointed the way to what (much) later cases would
label “specific jurisdiction” over claims related to
in-forum activities and “general jurisdiction” in
places where a corporation is incorporated or headquartered. See,
, Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A.
, 466 U.S.
, 414–415, and nn. 8–9 (1984). But the fact
remains that International Shoe
itself eschewed any
“mechanical or quantitative” test and instead endorsed
a flexible approach focused on “the fair and orderly
administration of the laws which it was the purpose of the due
process clause to insure.” 326 U. S., at 319.
Unquestionably, too, International Shoe
saw this flexible
standard as expanding—not contracting—state court
jurisdiction. See Daimler
, 571 U. S., at 128, and
n. 6. As we later put the point: “The immediate effect
of [International Shoe
] was to increase the ability of the
state courts to obtain personal jurisdiction over nonresident
, 433 U.S.
, 204 (1977).
Given all this, it is no wonder that we have
already turned aside arguments very much like Norfolk
Southern’s. In Burnham
, the defendant contended that
implicitly overruled the traditional tag
rule holding that individuals physically served in a State are
subject to suit there for claims of any kind. 495 U. S., at
616 (plurality opinion). This Court rejected that submission.
Instead, as Justice Scalia explained, International Shoe
simply provided a “novel” way to secure personal
jurisdiction that did nothing to displace other “traditional
, at 619. What held true there must hold
true here. Indeed, seven years after
, the Court cited Pennsylvania Fire
v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co.
, 446, n. 6 (1952).[7
Norfolk Southern offers several replies, but
none persuades. The company begins by pointing to this
Court’s decision in Shaffer
. There, as the company
stresses, the Court indicated that “ ‘prior
decisions . . . inconsistent with’ ”
overruled.’ ” Brief for Respondent 35 (quoting
, 433 U. S., at 212, n. 39); post
at 15 (opinion of Barrett, J.). True as that statement may be,
however, it only poses the question whether Pennsylvania
is “inconsistent with” International
. And, as we have seen, it is not. Instead, the latter
decision expanded upon the traditional grounds of personal
jurisdiction recognized by the former. This Court has previously
cautioned litigants and lower courts against (mis)reading
as suggesting that International Shoe
discarded every traditional method for securing personal
jurisdiction that came before. See Burnham
, 495 U. S.,
at 620–622 (plurality opinion); cf. Daimler
U. S., at 126, 132–133. We find ourselves repeating the
Next, Norfolk Southern appeals to the spirit of
our age. After International Shoe
, it says, the
“primary concern” of the personal jurisdiction analysis
is “[t]reating defendants fairly.” Brief for Respondent
19 (internal quotation marks omitted). And on the company’s
telling, it would be “unfair” to allow Mr.
Mallory’s suit to proceed in Pennsylvania because doing so
would risk unleashing “ ‘local
prejudice’ ” against a company that is “not
‘local’ in the eyes of the community.”
, at 19–21.
But if fairness is what Norfolk Southern seeks,
pause for a moment to measure this suit against that standard. When
Mr. Mallory brought his claim in 2017, Norfolk Southern had
registered to do business in Pennsylvania for many years. It had
established an office for receiving service of process. It had done
so pursuant to a statute that gave the company the right to do
business in-state in return for agreeing to answer any suit against
it. And the company had taken full advantage of its opportunity to
do business in the Commonwealth, boasting of its presence this
Norfolk Southern Corp., State Fact
All told, when Mr. Mallory sued, Norfolk
Southern employed nearly 5,000 people in Pennsylvania. It
maintained more than 2,400 miles of track across the Commonwealth.
Its 70-acre locomotive shop there was the largest in North America.
Contrary to what it says in its brief here, the company even
proclaimed itself a proud part of “the Pennsylvania
By 2020, too, Norfolk Southern
managed more miles of track in Pennsylvania than in any other
State. Brief for Public Citizen as Amicus Curiae
21. And it
employed more people in Pennsylvania than it did in Virginia, where
its headquarters was located. Ibid.
Nor are we conjuring
these statistics out of thin air. The company itself
highlighted its “intrastate activities” in the
proceedings below. 266 A. 3d, at 560, 563 (discussing the
firm’s “extensive operations in Pennsylvania,”
including “2,278 miles of track,” “eleven rail
yards,” and “three locomotive repair shops”).
Given all this, on what plausible account could International
’s concerns with “fair play and substantial
justice” require a Pennsylvania court to turn aside Mr.
Mallory’s suit? See post
, at 4–5 (opinion of
Perhaps sensing its arguments from fairness meet
a dead end, Norfolk Southern ultimately heads in another direction
altogether. It suggests the Due Process Clause separately prohibits
one State from infringing on the sovereignty of another State
through exorbitant claims of personal jurisdiction. Brief for
Respondent 16–19; see post
, at 6–8 (opinion of
Barrett, J.). And, in candor, the company is half right. Some of
our personal jurisdiction cases have discussed the federalism
implications of one State’s assertion of jurisdiction over
the corporate residents of another. See, e.g.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
v. Superior Court of Cal., San
, 582 U.S. 255, 263 (2017). But that neglects an
important part of the story. To date, our personal jurisdiction
cases have never found a Due Process Clause problem sounding in
federalism when an out-of-state defendant submits to suit in the
forum State. After all, personal jurisdiction is a personal
defense that may be waived or forfeited. See Insurance Corp. of
, 456 U. S., at 704–705; see also
, at 8 (opinion of Alito, J.); post
, at 1–2
(opinion of Jackson, J.).
That leaves Norfolk Southern one final stand. It
argues that it has not really
submitted to proceedings in
Pennsylvania. Brief for Respondent 11–13; see post
5–6, 8 (opinion of Barrett, J.). The company does not dispute
that it has filed paperwork with Pennsylvania seeking the right to
do business there. It does not dispute that it has established an
office in the Commonwealth to receive service of process on any
claim. It does not dispute that it appreciated the jurisdictional
consequences attending these actions and proceeded anyway,
presumably because it thought the benefits outweighed the costs.
But, in the name of the Due Process Clause, Norfolk Southern
insists we should dismiss all
that as a raft of meaningless
Taken seriously, this argument would have us
undo not just Pennsylvania Fire
but a legion of precedents
that attach jurisdictional consequences to what some might dismiss
as mere formalities. Consider some examples we have already
encountered. In a typical general jurisdiction case under
, a company is subject to suit on any
claim in a forum State only because of its decision to file a piece
of paper there (a certificate of incorporation). The firm is
amenable to suit even if all of its operations are located
elsewhere and even if its certificate only sits collecting dust on
an office shelf for years thereafter. See, e.g.
, 564 U. S., at 924. Then there is the tag
rule. The invisible state line might seem a trivial thing. But when
an individual takes one step off a plane after flying from New
Jersey to California, the jurisdictional consequences are immediate
and serious. See Burnham
, 495 U. S., at 619 (plurality
Consider, too, just a few other examples. A
defendant who appears “specially” to contest
jurisdiction preserves his defense, but one who forgets can lose
his. See York
, 137 U.S.
, 19–21 (1890). Failing to comply with certain
pre-trial court orders, signing a contract with a forum selection
clause, accepting an in-state benefit with jurisdictional strings
attached—all these actions as well can carry with them
profound consequences for personal jurisdiction. See Insurance
Corp. of Ireland
, 456 U. S., at 703–706 (collecting
cases); see also post
, at 2 (opinion of Jackson, J.).
The truth is, under our precedents a variety of
“actions of the defendant” that may seem like
technicalities nonetheless can “amount to a legal submission
to the jurisdiction of a court.” Insurance Corp. of
, 456 U. S., at 704–705; see also Brief for
Stephen E. Sachs as Amicus Curiae
10. That was so before
, and it remains so today. Should we
overrule them all? Taking Norfolk Southern’s argument
seriously would require just that. But, tellingly, the company does
not follow where its argument leads or even acknowledge its
implications. Instead, Norfolk Southern asks us to pluck out and
overrule just one longstanding precedent that it happens to
dislike. We decline the invitation. Post
, at 4 (opinion of
Alito, J.). There is no fair play or substantial justice in
Not every case poses a new question. This case
poses a very old question indeed—one this Court resolved more
than a century ago in Pennsylvania Fire
. Because that
decision remains the law, the judgment of the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania is vacated, and the case is remanded.
It is so ordered.