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Daimler AG v. Bauman

United States Supreme Court

January 14, 2014

DAIMLER AG, PETITIONER
v.
BARBARA BAUMAN ET AL.

Argued October 15, 2013

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

[134 S.Ct. 748] Syllabus [*]

Plaintiffs (respondents here) are twenty-two residents of Argentina who filed suit in California Federal District Court, naming as a defendant Daimler-Chrysler 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. 753 – 763, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 632-643.

(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)(l)(A). P. 753, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 632.

(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, 24 L.Ed. 565. 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, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. 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. __, __, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2853, 180 L.Ed.2d 796, [134 S.Ct. 749] 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, 414, n. 8, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404. 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, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95.

Since International Shoe, "specific jurisdiction has become the centerpiece of modern jurisdiction theory." Goodyear, 564 U.S., at __, 131 S.Ct., at 2854, 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796, 807. This Court's general jurisdiction opinions, in contrast, have been few. See Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 72 S.Ct. 413, 96 L.Ed. 485, 63 Ohio Law Abs. 146 Helicopteros, 466 U.S., at 416, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404, and Goodyear, 564 U.S., at __, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796. 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. 753-758, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 632-637.

(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. 758-763, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 637-643.

(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 __, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2856, 180 L.Ed.2d 796, 809. Pp. 758 – 760, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 638-639.

(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 __, 131 S.Ct., at 2853-2854, 2846, 2854, 180 L.Ed.2d 796, 806. 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, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. 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, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. 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 __, 131 S.Ct, at 2851, 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796.

[134 S.Ct. 750]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. 760 -762, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 639-642.

(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. __, __, 133 S.Ct. 1659, __, 185 L.Ed.2d 671 and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, 566 U.S. __, __, 132 S.Ct. 1702, __, 182 L.Ed.2d 720. The Ninth Circuit, moreover, paid little heed to the risks to international comity posed by its expansive view of general jurisdiction. Pp. 762 – 763, 187 L.Ed.2d, at 642-643.

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.

Thomas H. Dupree, Jr., Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Edwin S. Kneedler, Washington, DC, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioner.

Kevin Russell, Washington, DC, for Respondents.

Justs N. Karlsons, Matthew J. Kemner, David M. Rice, Troy M. Yoshino, Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP, San Francisco, Theodore B. Olson, Daniel W. Nelson, Thomas H. Dupree, Jr., Counsel of Record, Amir C. Tayrani, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Washington, DC, Counsel for Petitioner.

Kevin K. Russell, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Counsel of Record, Washington, DC, Pamela S. Karlan, Jeffrey L. Fisher, Stanford Law School, Supreme Court, Litigation Clinic, Stanford, Terrence P. Collingsworth, Christian Levesque, Conrad & Scherer, LLP, Washington, DC, for Respondents.

OPINION

GINSBURG JUSTICE.

This case concerns the authority of a court in the United States to entertain a claim brought by foreign plaintiffs against a foreign defendant based on events occurring entirely outside the United States. The litigation commenced in 2004, when twenty-two Argentinian residents[1]filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Daimler Chrysler Aktiengesellschaft [134 S.Ct. 751] (Daimler), [2] a German public stock company, headquartered in Stuttgart, that manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Germany. The complaint alleged that during Argentina's 1976-1983 "Dirty War, " Daimler's Argentinian subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Argentina (MB Argentina) collaborated with state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill certain MB Argentina workers, among them, plaintiffs or persons closely related to plaintiffs. Damages for the alleged human-rights violations were sought from Daimler under the laws of the United States, California, and Argentina. Jurisdiction over the lawsuit was predicated on the California contacts of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA), a subsidiary of Daimler 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.

The question presented is whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment precludes the District Court from exercising jurisdiction over Daimler in this case, given the absence of any California connection to the atrocities, perpetrators, or victims described in the complaint. Plaintiffs invoked the court's general or all-purpose jurisdiction. California, they urge, is a place where Daimler may be sued on any and all claims against it, wherever in the world the claims may arise. For example, as plaintiffs' counsel affirmed, under the proffered jurisdictional theory, if a Daimler-manufactured vehicle overturned in Poland, injuring a Polish driver and passenger, the injured parties could maintain a design defect suit in California. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-29. Exercises of personal jurisdiction so exorbitant, we hold, are barred by due process constraints on the assertion of adjudicatory authority.

In Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011), we addressed the distinction between general or all-purpose jurisdiction, and specific or conduct-linked jurisdiction. As to the former, we held that a court may assert jurisdiction over a foreign corporation "to hear any and all claims against [it]" only when the corporation's affiliations with the State in which suit is brought are so constant and pervasive "as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State." Id., at__, 131 S.Ct., at 2851, 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796, 803. Instructed by Goodyear, we conclude Daimler is not "at home" in California, and cannot be sued there for injuries plaintiffs attribute to MB Argentina's conduct in Argentina.

I

In 2004, plaintiffs (respondents here) filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that MB Argentina collaborated with Argentinian state security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill plaintiffs and their relatives during the military dictatorship in place there from 1976 through 1983, a period known as Argentina's "Dirty War." Based on those allegations, plaintiffs asserted claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. §1350, and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, 106 Stat. 73, note following 28 U.S.C. §1350, as well as claims for wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress under the laws of California and Argentina. The incidents recounted in the [134 S.Ct. 752] complaint center on MB Argentina's plant in Gonzalez Catan, Argentina; no part of MB Argentina's alleged collaboration with Argentinian authorities took place in California or anywhere else in the United States.

Plaintiffs' operative complaint names only one corporate defendant: Daimler, the petitioner here. Plaintiffs seek to hold Daimler vicariously liable for MB Argentina's alleged malfeasance. Daimler is a German Aktiengesellschaft (public stock company) that manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Germany and has its headquarters in Stuttgart. At times relevant to this case, MB Argentina was a subsidiary wholly owned by Daimler's predecessor in interest.

Daimler moved to dismiss the action for want of personal jurisdiction. Opposing the motion, plaintiffs submitted declarations and exhibits purporting to demonstrate the presence of Daimler itself in California. Alternatively, plaintiffs maintained that jurisdiction over Daimler could be founded on the California contacts of MBUSA, a distinct corporate entity that, according to plaintiffs, should be treated as Daimler's agent for jurisdictional purposes.

MBUSA, an indirect subsidiary of Daimler, is a Delaware limited liability corporation.[3] MBUSA serves as Daimler's exclusive importer and distributor in the United States, purchasing Mercedes-Benz automobiles from Daimler in Germany, then importing those vehicles, and ultimately distributing them to independent dealerships located throughout the Nation. Although MBUSA's principal place of business is in New Jersey, MBUSA has multiple California-based facilities, including a regional office in Costa Mesa, a Vehicle Preparation Center in Carson, and a Classic Center in Irvine. According to the record developed below, MBUSA is the largest supplier of luxury vehicles to the California market. In particular, over 10% of all sales of new vehicles in the United States take place in California, and MBUSA's California sales account for 2.4% of Daimler's worldwide sales.

The relationship between Daimler and MBUSA is delineated in a General Distributor Agreement, which sets forth requirements for MBUSA's distribution of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the United States. That agreement established MBUSA as an "independent contracto[r]" that "buy[s] and sell[s] [vehicles] .. as an independent business for [its] own account." App. 179a. The agreement "does not make [MBUSA] .. a general or special agent, partner, joint venturer or employee of DAIMLERCHRYSLER or any Daimler Chrysler Group Company"; MBUSA "ha[s] no authority to make binding obligations for or act on behalf of DAIMLERCHRYSLER or any DaimlerChrysler Group Company." Ibid.

After allowing jurisdictional discovery on plaintiffs' agency allegations, the District Court granted Daimler's motion to dismiss. Daimler's own affiliations with California, the court first determined, were insufficient to support the exercise of all-purpose jurisdiction over the corporation. Bauman v. Daimler Chrysler AG, No. C-04-00194 RMW (ND Cal., Nov. 22, 2005), App. to Pet. for Cert. 111a-112a, 2005 WL 3157472, *9-*10. Next, the court declined to attribute MBUSA's California contacts to Daimler on an agency theory, concluding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that MBUSA acted as Daimler's agent. Id., at 117a, 133a, 2005 WL ...


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