Over the past five years, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a series of decisions scaling back the ability of U.S. courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over foreign defendants in suits concerning conduct occurring outside of the United States. Of these, two decisions issued by the Supreme Court concerning general jurisdiction, Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown1 and Daimler AG v. Bauman,2 have received the majority of attention, but it is a third decision, Walden v. Fiore,3 which sharply limits the ability of U.S. courts to exercise specific jurisdiction, that may prove to have the most impact.
In Walden, decided in late 2014, the Supreme Court significantly cut back on the ability of lower courts to employ the so-called “effects” test to sustain jurisdiction over foreign defendants. Previously, relying on an earlier Supreme Court precedent, Calder v. Jones,4 courts had frequently exercised specific personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant on the basis of the effect that the defendant’s conduct had on the plaintiff in the forum rather than the defendant’s connections with that forum. In Walden, the Supreme Court held that to sustain jurisdiction over a defendant, the court must find that the defendant purposefully directed his conduct at a forum itself, not simply that the defendant’s conduct had a foreseeable adverse effect on the plaintiff in the forum.
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