Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses ... But Not Your Plaintiffs: Supreme Court Decision Limits General Personal Jurisdiction Over Foreign Defendants


It is no secret that U.S. courts are among the most favorable to plaintiffs, especially with regard to damages awards. For this reason, there has been a growing trend of foreign plaintiffs bringing law-suits in the U.S. even where neither the plaintiff(s) nor the incident causing injury has any real connection to the U.S.

This is especially true in the field of aviation, where more and more frequently foreign air disasters are resulting in U.S. litigation despite the lack of any apparent connection to the U.S. The doctrine of forum non conveniens (FNC), through which U.S. courts dismiss actions on the basis of inconvenience where there is a more convenient forum elsewhere, has proven effective in shifting many of these cases to a proper, foreign jurisdiction. In some cases, and especially some jurisdictions (e.g., Cook County, Illinois), however, FNC motions have met with little success. Those of us involved with these cases are fully familiar with the importance of these decisions, as the result of an FNC motion can change the value of a single plaintiff’s claim by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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