Respondent sued Appellant in Washington for unpaid taxes. Appellant argued that the court lacked in personam jurisdiction because Appellant was a nonresident of the state.
As required by due process, a state may only exercise in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident if the nonresident has created minimum contacts with the state and the lawsuit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
The state of Washington (Respondent) brought suit in Washington against International Shoe, Co. (Appellant), a Delaware company with its principal place of business in Missouri, for failure to pay contributions to the state unemployment compensation fund. Appellant’s salesperson in Washington was personally served and Appellant was served by mail in Missouri. Appellant moved to set aside the notice of the lawsuit, arguing that the service violated due process and Respondent lacked in personam jurisdiction because Appellant did not have an office conducting business in Washington. However, Appellant did employ eleven to thirteen salespersons over the years who resided in the state, were compensated by sales commissions in the state, and occasionally rented out showrooms in the state to display samples shoes.
Can certain activity within a state render a nonresident present for purposes of in personam jurisdiction?
Yes, sufficient minimum contacts with a state can render a nonresident present for purposes of in personal jurisdiction.
Justice Black argued that by relying on vague notions of fair play, justice, and reasonableness as standards for limiting in personam jurisdiction, the Court was opening the door for future opinions to limit state power.
The Court determined that Appellant created sufficient minimum contacts with the state of Washington to fairly establish in personam jurisdiction. Through its salespersons, Appellant engaged in systematic and continuous activities that generated business and obligations arising out of the benefits and protections provided by Washington law. Additionally, the Court concluded that service by mail and service to the Appellant’s salesperson were not violations of due process because they were sufficiently likely to notify the Appellant.