Until recently, many large companies have resigned themselves to the assertion of personal jurisdiction by courts in any state in which they do business—so long as the plaintiff has named the right corporate entity as defendant. That’s because the conventional wisdom has been that large companies are subject to personal jurisdiction nationwide because they do a lot of business in every state.

The Supreme Court recently has provided reason to revisit that assumption, however. Two recent decisions by the Court place significantly tighter limitations on the assertion of personal jurisdiction, equipping businesses with new defenses against forum-shopping by plaintiffs’ class-action lawyers.


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Today, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (pdf) on the scope of the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, a law that creates federal jurisdiction for civil actions brought by aliens for torts committed in violation of the law of nations or a U.S. treaty. In Kiobel, the Court held that presumption against applying federal statutes extraterritorially applies to the ATS, and affirmed the dismissal of an ATS complaint alleging violations of international law in Nigeria. Kiobel thus is a very welcome development for businesses that have been targeted by lawsuits under the ATS, an increasingly common vehicle for unjustified class actions in recent years.

See additional discussion below the fold.
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