On May 18, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied plaintiffs' petition for certiorari review of the Ninth Circuit's decision holding that in-state service of process on a foreign corporation's vice-president of marketing (known as "tag" or "transient" jurisdiction) was not sufficient to create general personal jurisdiction over the corporation. Martinez v. Aero Caribbean, 764 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, No. 14-835 (May 18, 2015) See also: Holland & Knight's September 29, 2014 Aviation Centerline Alert. In the underlying action, plaintiffs asserted wrongful death, negligence and product liability claims against turbo-prop manufacturer Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) arising from a passenger's death in a 2010 Aero Caribbean plane crash in Cuba. The District Court granted ATR's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.
Plaintiffs relied primarily on Burnham v. Superior Court of California, County of Marin, 495 U.S. 604 (1990) in arguing that ATR could be sued in California based on the presence and service of the corporation's agents in the state. Burnham, however, involved personal service on an individual defendant, not an artificial person. As held by the Ninth Circuit, "[w]hile a corporation may in some abstract sense be 'present' wherever its officers do business, such presence is not physical in the way contemplated by Burnham." Additionally, under Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014), jurisdiction is appropriate only when the corporation's contacts with the forum state are so constant and pervasive as to render it "essentially at home" in the state. The Ninth Circuit found there was no dispute that ATR was not "at home" in California, and "service on its corporate officer did not render it so." The Supreme Court's denial of plaintiffs' petition for review signals that Burnham remains limited to individual defendants and the jurisdictional limitations established by Daimler will remain undisturbed.