Ninth Circuit Finds Jurisdiction Over Foreign Corporation Based On Its Subsidiary's Contacts in the United States

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By Bram Hanono In the recent case of Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (No. 07-15386 (9th Cir. May 18, 2011)), the Ninth Circuit expanded the use of "agency theory" to impose personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation doing business in the U.S. solely through its U.S. subsidiary. The court found jurisdiction based on the subsidiary's contacts within California, even though the lawsuit was initiated by non-U.S. residents regarding acts allegedly committed in a foreign country that had nothing to do with the subsidiary's contacts.

If this decision stands, it has the potential to affect any foreign company doing business in the U.S. through subsidiaries, even if those subsidiaries have nothing to do with the company's alleged actions giving rise to the lawsuit.

In the decision, the Ninth Circuit held that personal jurisdiction existed over DaimlerChrysler AG (DCAG), a German company, based in part on its right to maintain control over Mercedes-Benz USA LLC (MBUSA), its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary. The court held that DCAG could be haled into court in California due to MBUSA's contacts within California.

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