Poyner v. Erma Werke GmbH: The Long-Arm Statute as a Protectionist Device

Liebman, Rhonda S. | January 1, 1982

Technological and economic progess have continually fostered the development of international trade. As greater quantities of international goods enter American markets, there is a greater potential that American consumers will bring actions against international manufacturers for injuries sustained from defective products. Consequently, state and federal courts must consider the constitutional restrictions involved in asserting personal jurisdiction over alien as well as foreign defendants. One hundred years ago, a state’s jurisdictional power was virtually limited to its territorial boundaries. State and federal courts, however, began to abandon this restrictive jurisdictional approach as interstate commerce developed. In the seminal case, International Shoe Co. v. Washington, the Supreme Court expanded a state’s jurisdictional authority by holding that a nonresident defendant could be served with process if he sustained “minimal contacts” with the forum. After the Supreme Court announced this flexible minimum contacts standard, state legislators passed long-arm statutes which enabled state and federal courts to establish personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. Generally, these statutory provisions permit constructive service over nonresident defendants who conduct business or who commit other acts within the state. Thus, if a nonresident defendant contact falls within the constitutional scope of the state’s long-arm statute, an injured plaintiff may seek redress in a court within his state.