Duquesne Law Review


To what extent may a state court, or a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction, assert in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant not served within the state? Ultimately, the perimeter of such jurisdiction must be determined by constitutional standards. The constitutional limitations which come immediately to mind are the fourteenth amendment's privileges or immunities and due process clauses. The Supreme Court early determined that the privileges or immunities clause was not applicable to corporations, consequently where the nonresident defendant is a foreign corporation the limitation of such jurisdiction will be determined by due process. Moreover, in cases involving nonresident natural persons, the Court has found no violation of privileges or immunities if the treatment afforded those defendants is not discriminatory as compared with that which the forum affords its resident defendants. Since a state could hardly desire broader jurisdiction than it enjoys over its own residents, such decisions of the Court have virtually emasculated the privileges or immunities clause as a limitation upon the jurisdiction a state may exercise over nonresident defendants. Apparently, whether the nonresident defendant is a natural person or a corporation, the due process clause provides the principal limiting factor in determining the constitutional propriety of state court jurisdiction. In this context, the due process clause may be said to consist of two parts, one requiring an appropriate form of service and the other requiring an adequate justification for the exercise of such jurisdiction; for lack of more descriptive language, the first may be referred to as procedural due process, the second as substantive due process. In determining whether or not procedural due process has been complied with in such cases, the Court has fashioned a standard which requires that the form of constructive service utilized must be reasonably calculated to provide the defendant with actual notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to defend. Registered mail service directed to the defendant at his last known address, by the forum's secretary of state or the plaintiff or both, consistently has been found sufficient to meet the required standard. A form of service less cumbersome to the plaintiff would be difficult to conceive. Consequently, the only significant constitutional limitation upon a state court's jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is substantive due process. Once the requirements of that constitutional mandate are determined, the permissible scope of such jurisdiction should become apparent.

First Page


Included in

Law Commons