Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

The issue in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway is whether the Pennsylvania state courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over Norfolk Southern, a corporation incorporated and headquartered in Virginia, based on its registration to do business and consent to service of process on its registered agent in Virginia, even with respect to claims that do not arise out of or relate to Norfolk Southern’s conduct in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Pennsylvania courts could not assert such “general” jurisdiction based on the state’s statutory registration requirement. The petitioner in the case, a retired railroad worker with cancer attributable to his work for Norfolk Southern in Virginia and Ohio, argues that under the traditional understanding of the Due Process Clause, Norfolk Southern’s consent is a valid basis for the assertion of jurisdiction, and that the railroad’s argument that the consent was involuntary because registration and consent were required as a condition of doing business in the state does not overcome the traditional understanding that the exercise of personal jurisdiction on that basis is consistent with standards of fair play and substantial justice. Public Citizen filed an amicus brief arguing that another way of viewing the case is that jurisdiction is permissible because of the corporation’s presence in the state, just as general jurisdiction over an individual is permissible if she is served in the state, regardless of how insubstantial her ties to the state may be.