Personal Jurisdiction 101

Two classic jurisdictional issues were presented in Special Industries, Inc. v. Zamil Group Holding Co., No. 13-20231 (Aug. 5, 2014, unpublished), which affirmed a dismissal on personal jurisdiction grounds in a forum dispute between Texas and Saudi Arabia.

First, citing Moncrief Oil Int’l, Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, 481 F.3d 309 (5th Cir. 2007), the Fifth Circuit emphasized the importance of the “hub” of contract performance, finding: “The foreseeability that [plaintiff] would perform part of its obligations under the contract in Texas, and that the parties did in fact engage other Texas companies for work on the project, is not enough for a finding of specific jurisdiction over the . . . defendants.  The contracts were formed outside of Texas, did not expressly provide for work to be done in Texas, the [plaintiff] individuals performing work under the contract did not do so solely from Texas, Texas was not the hub of the parties’ activities, the contracts’ choice of law provisions did not provide for Texas law, and payments under the contract were not made to Texas.”

Second, as to an “alter ego” theory of jurisdiction over another defendant, the Court held: “We find no authority allowing for the assertion of general jurisdiction over a foreign parent corporation premised only on the foreign corporation’s ownership of subsidiaries in the forum and representations by the foreign parent of its ‘unified’ corporate structure. The assertion of jurisdiction must be premised either on sufficient minimum contacts of the foreign parent with the forum or on some evidence demonstrating the parent company’s actual control over the internal business operations and affairs of the subsidiary.” (distinguishing Daimler-Benz AG v. Olson, 21 S.W.3d 707 (Tex. App.–Austin 2000, pet. dism’d w.o.j.)

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