Civil Procedure Class Notes 9/17/03


We will go through Washington Equipment and Helicopteros today.  Tomorrow, we’ll start Burnham.


Washington Equipment Manufacturing Co. v. Concrete Placing Co.


What’s happening?  Where are we?  Washington Equipment is in Washington, and Concrete Placing is in Idaho.  Washington Equipment made a contract to sell stuff to Concrete Placing.  Concrete Placing didn’t pay the agreed upon price.  So we have a breach of contract.


Washington Equipment sues in Washington state court.  The trial court dismisses for lack of general personal jurisdiction over Concrete Placing.


How come this isn’t a case of specific jurisdiction?  What is Washington Equipment suing for?  It’s a breach of contract.


How does Washington Equipment’s cause of action relate to the state of Washington?  The contract was made in the state of Idaho.  Therefore, the court can’t get specific jurisdiction based on the sale of the equipment.  Specific jurisdiction is not at issue; Washington can’t get it.


Specific jurisdiction is the easy route; general jurisdiction is the hard route.  The procedural posture below tells us something about the issues in the present case.


When you have general jurisdiction over Concrete Placing, you may sue them in the state of Washington for anything, anywhere, anytime.  That’s tough to establish.


But why might Washington have general jurisdiction over Concrete Placing?  They got this certificate to do business in Washington.  The plaintiffs argue that the statute that requires this certificate implies consent to general jurisdiction.


However, the appeals court says that there is no general jurisdiction over Concrete Placing in Washington because they found no legislative intent to force foreign corporations to consent to general jurisdiction as a result of getting the required certificate.


What if the legislature did have intent?  Would such a statute be constitutional?  Would it offend notions of fair play and substantial justice?


General jurisdiction is usually easy!  It’s hard to find hard cases on general jurisdiction.


You must have more of a relationship with a forum to constitute general jurisdiction than to be subject to specific jurisdiction.


Think of general jurisdiction as “super contacts”.


The result of this case is right, however, the court’s explanation is wrong.  That’s part of why the case is in the book.  The case is wrong, wrong, wrong though with the right result.


Yeazell dislikes the next case.  He didn’t include it.


Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia S.A. v. Hall


We’re in Peru.  We’re doing oil stuff.  Helicol is in Colombia.  Consorcio is the “alter ego” of some companies in the U.S.  Helicol has a relationship with Texas.


·        The CEO of Helicol negotiated a contract in Houston.

·        Helicol bought helicopters from Bell in Ft. Worth.

·        Helicol’s pilots trained in Texas.

·        Helicol paid with checks from a Houston Bank.


The decedents file suit in Houston (Harris County).  They sue Helicol, Bell, and Consorcio.


Helicol makes a special appearance to challenge personal jurisdiction.  The trial court says noooo…we have personal jurisdiction over you!  What about the other defendants?  Consorcio and Bell were granted directed verdicts.


Helicol loses and is found liable to the tune of about $1,000,000.


Having made the special appearance, Helicol can’t appeal the jurisdictional issue until the trial is complete.  They do!


The Texas Court of Appeals reverses the trial court, saying Helicol isn’t subject to Texas jurisdiction.  The families appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which at first affirms the ruling of the Court of Appeals, but ultimately reverse, which means that the trial court’s finding of “YES JURISDICTION” stands.


Then, the United States Supreme Court ends up reversing and saying that Texas doesn’t have jurisdiction.


The big question: why isn’t this a case of specific jurisdiction?  These are the helicopters that they bought in Texas that crashed.  These are the pilots that they had trained in Texas.  Why did they go for general jurisdiction?


The practical reason that they don’t argue for specific jurisdiction is that the parties allegedly waived it.  That’s unbelievable.  The parties concede that Helicol’s contact were not related or did not arise out of Helicol’s activities in Texas.


What does the record of the oral argument show?  Counsel seems to have retreated to general jurisdiction through a “Perkins”-style argument, which is to say, they claim “systematic and continuous contacts” with the forum state.


Perkins v. Benguet


This is a case that arose out of World War II.  While the Japanese were occupying the Philippines, a Philippine business operated “in exile” in Ohio.  They got sued in Ohio after the war, and it was ruled that they were subject to general jurisdiction in Ohio due to their “systematic and continuous contacts” with Ohio.


Blackmun looks at the contacts individually and determines that each one in isolation is not continuous and systematic.  Fairman suggests that he should have looked at the contacts in toto.


Blackmun says that one visit doesn’t constitute minimum contacts.  He says that buying stuff is not enough, citing Rosenberg from 1923.  But Rosenberg is pre-Shoe!


Rosenberg Bros. & Co. v. Curtis Brown Co.


The defendant in this case was located in Oklahoma, and purchased merchandise from New York.  Representatives of the defendants made trips to New York that related to the purchases.  It was ruled that there were not minimum contacts.  But you might argue that under Shoe there might have been sufficient contacts.


Brennan objects: this case is from 1923!  It’s old!


What about the pilots?  Blackmun says that’s it’s part of the package of the helicopters and training, so, citing Rosenberg, they don’t matter.


What about the bank checks?  You’re not likely to get general jurisdiction over writing Texas checks.  Blackmun tells us so.  It’s doesn’t matter where you bank for the purposes of personal jurisdiction.


We’re got crap!  Nothing left to support jurisdiction at all.  Therefore, there’s no jurisdiction.


Fairman is troubled by the way Blackmun does this.  He creates a framework for how to look at contacts in the future.


Here’s the problem: you can look at the contacts apart or together, and depending on how you do it, you’ll get to a different result.


Tomorrow, we will start with two thoughtful questions and go over Burnham.


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