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Journal of International Business and Law

Abstract

After two decades of silence, on June 27, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions refining the contours of personal jurisdiction. While generating much anticipation and speculation, the Supreme Court's decisions offered little insight into the type of conduct that may render a foreign corporation subject to a forum's general personal jurisdiction. In J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, a divided Supreme Court reversed the exercise of personal jurisdiction by a New Jersey court over a British corporation. Although six Justices concurred in the judgment, no majority opinion was reached. In Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the North Carolina Court of Appeals' finding of general jurisdiction over the foreign subsidiaries of a U.S. parent corporation. Despite its unanimity, the Supreme Court's reasoning in Goodyear was restrained and simply reaffirmed an established principle of general personal jurisdiction overlooked by the North Carolina courts.

J. McIntyre and Goodyear are notable, not because of the issues they resolve, but rather because of the questions they raise. In both cases, the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to provide needed guidance to state and federal courts tasked with determining the level of business contacts that may subject a foreign corporation to a forum's general personal jurisdiction. This is particularly true in cases where foreign corporations have no physical presence in the forum, yet generate large revenues from customers in the forum. This article provides an overview of the current state of personal jurisdiction jurisprudence, notes the implications of the Supreme Court's recent decisions, and analyzes the questions relating to general personal jurisdiction that remain unanswered.

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