How to Challenge Personal Jurisdiction if Sued in Missouri

If you are an out-of-state party sued in Missouri, one of the first things you should do in deciding how to defend the case is to determine whether to file a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. If you go ahead and file an answer to the allegations in the petition without challenging personal jurisdiction, you may waive the right to argue the issue later.

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 55.27(a)(2)

Every defense, in law or fact, to a claim in any pleading, whether a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall be asserted in the responsive pleading thereto if one is required, except that several defenses may at the option of the pleader be made by motion, including "[l]ack of jurisdiction over the person."

Who bears the burden and what may the court consider?

When a defendant raises the issue of personal jurisdiction, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. Conway v. Royalite Plastics, 12 S.W.3d 314, 318 (Mo. banc 2000). In ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the trial court may consider affidavits presented by the parties. Consolidated Elec. & Mechanicals, Inc. v. Schuerman, 185 S.W.3d 773, 776 (Mo. Ct. App. E.D. 2006). The court's inquiry is limited to an examination of the petition on its face and the supporting affidavits and depositions when determining the limited question of personal jurisdiction. Hollinger v. Sifers, 122 S.W.3d 112, 115 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2003). Quite often, the analysis will hinge on long-arm jurisdiction. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution further limits the court's power to exercise in personam jurisdiction. Id. Likewise, the Missouri Constitution guarantees the right to due process. Mo. Const. art. I, Section 10. Due process requires that, in order to subject a non-resident defendant to in personam jurisdiction, the defendant have certain minimum contacts with the state so that the maintenance of the suit does "not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945); Chromalloy Am. Corp. v. Elyria Foundry Co., 955 S.W.2d 1, 5 (Mo. banc 1997).

What Does the Missouri Supreme Court say?

Last month, in State ex rel. Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Hon. Colleen Dolan, No. SC95514, the Missouri Supreme Court held that a foreign corporation was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Missouri for out-of-state events even though the corporation did substantial and continuous business in Missouri and was registered with the Missouri Secretary of State as a foreign corporation in Missouri. Although the railway company’s activity in Missouri was “substantial and continuous,” such activity was not enough to make the company “at home” in Missouri. The mere fact that a business is registered to transact business in Missouri does not mean that it may be sued here for activities occurring outside of Missouri. A court normally can exercise general jurisdiction over a corporation only when the corporation’s place of incorporation or its principal place of business is in the forum state.

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