Litigation and Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction is the courts power to hear a case, the power to decide a case over a defendant (and plaintiff, but its not usually a plaintiff’s issue). If a defendant files a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (MCR 2.116(C)(1)), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court does indeed have personal jurisdiction over such defendant. However, the burden is only prima facie.

In Michigan, when analyzing a summary-disposition motion pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(1) the “complaint must be accepted as true unless specifically contradicted by affidavits or other evidence submitted by the parties.” Yoost v. Caspari, 295 Mich.App 209, 221 (2012). Therefore, the Court must draw the facts from the Plaintiff’s complaint in the first instance, but modify the allegations in the complaint if evidence is presented by the parties that contradicts those allegations. The analysis takes a two-fold test: (1) do the defendant’s acts fall within the applicable long-arm statute, and (2) does the exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant comport with the requirements of due process.” See W.H. Froh, Inc. v. Domanski, 252 Mich. App. 220, 226 (2002).

Every state has a long-arm statute, and every attorney who filed a complaint has preformed a test to determine of personal jurisdiction exists under the long-arm statute of the state, although under most circumstances it is a very simple and obvious answer. On occasion, it is not. The general five relationships that are briefly tested are: (1) [t]he transaction of any business within the state; (2) [t]he doing or causing any act to be done, or consequences to occur, in the state resulting in an action for tort; (3) [t]he ownership, use, or possession of any real or tangible personal property situated within the state; (4) [c]ontracting to insure any person, property, or risk located within this state at the time of contracting; (5) [e]ntering into a contract for services to be performed or for materials to be furnished in the state by the defendant. MCL 600.725(1)-(5) …  et seq…

If the long-arm statute is satisfied, the constitutional requirements of due-process may limit jurisdiction even if the statute permits. Under most circumstances a lawyer will only apply these tests in cases where jurisdiction is a true issue (99.9% of filed cases, in a statistic we made up, jurisdiction is a non-issue).

“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ‘does not contemplate that a state may make binding a judgment in personam against an individual or a corporate defendant with which the state has no contacts, ties, or relations.'” Witbeck v. Bill Cody’s Ranch Inn, 428 Mich. 659, 666 (1987). “For a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, the defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum State.” Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct 1115, 1121 (2014). First, the relationship must arise out of contacts that the defendant himself creates with the forum State. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985). Second, the “minimum contacts” analysis looks to the defendant’s contacts with the forum State itself, not the defendant’s contacts with persons who reside there. Walden, 134 S.Ct at 1122. If the question is whether an individual’s contract with an out-of-state party alone can automatically establish sufficient minimum contacts in the other party’s home forum, we believe the answer clearly is that it cannot. Kulko v. Superior Court of Cal., City and County of San Francisco, 436 U.S. 84, 93 (1978)). Due process requires that a defendant be haled into court in a forum State based on his own affiliation with the State, not based on the ‘random, fortuitous, or attenuated’ contacts he makes by interacting with other persons affiliated with the State.

From there the analysis is broken down in greater detail balanced between purposeful availment and substantial fairness. And this matters in particular, because if you attempt to sue someone in Michigan for an action that only vaguely touched Michigan, you might get thrown out of court.