April 25, 2017
OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MONTANA
The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C.
§51 et seq., makes railroads liable in money
damages to their employees for on-the-job injuries.
Respondent Robert Nelson, a North Dakota resident, brought a
FELA suit against petitioner BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) in a
Montana state court, alleging that he had sustained injuries
while working for BNSF. Respondent Kelli Tyrrell, appointed
in South Dakota as the administrator of her husband Brent
Tyrrell's estate, also sued BNSF under FELA in a Montana
state court, alleging that Brent had developed a fatal cancer
from his exposure to carcinogenic chemicals while working for
BNSF. Neither worker was injured in Montana. Neither
incorporated nor headquartered there, BNSF maintains less
than 5% of its work force and about 6% of its total track
mileage in the State. Contending that it is not "at
home" in Montana, as required for the exercise of
general personal jurisdiction under Daimler AG v.
Bauman, 571 U.S. ___, ___, BNSF moved to dismiss both
suits. Its motion was granted in Nelson's case and denied
in Tyrrell's. After consolidating the two cases, the
Montana Supreme Court held that Montana courts could exercise
general personal jurisdiction over BNSF because the railroad
both "d[id] business" in the State within the
meaning of 45 U.S.C. §56 and was "found
within" the State within the compass of Mont. Rule Civ.
Proc. 4(b)(1). The due process limits articulated in
Daimler, the court added, did not control because
Daimler did not involve a FELA claim or a railroad
1. Section 56 does not address personal jurisdiction over
railroads. Pp. 4-9.
(a) Section 56's first relevant sentence provides that
"an action may be brought in a district court of the
United States, " in, among other places, the district
"in which the defendant shall be doing business at the
time of commencing such action." This Court has
comprehended that sentence as a venue prescription, not as
one governing personal jurisdiction. Baltimore & Ohio
R. Co. v. Kepner, 314 U.S. 44, 52. Congress generally
uses the expression, where suit "may be brought, "
to indicate the federal districts in which venue is proper,
see, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §1391(b), while it
typically provides for the exercise of personal jurisdiction
by authorizing service of process, see, e.g., 15
U.S.C. §22. Nelson and Tyrrell contend that the 1888
Judiciary Act provision that prompted §56's
enactment concerned both personal jurisdiction and venue, but
this Court has long read that Judiciary Act provision to
concern venue only, see, e.g., Green v. Chicago, B. &
Q. R. Co., 205 U.S. 530, 532-533. Pp. 5-7.
(b) The second relevant sentence of §56-that "[t]he
jurisdiction of the courts of the United States under this
chapter shall be concurrent with that of the courts of the
several States"-refers to concurrent
subject-matter jurisdiction of state and federal
courts over FELA actions. See Second Employers'
Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1, 55-56. Congress added this
clarification after the Connecticut Supreme Court held that
Congress intended to confine FELA litigation to federal
courts, and that state courts had no obligation to entertain
FELA claims. Pp. 7-8.
(c) None of the cases featured by the Montana Supreme Court
in reaching its contrary conclusion resolved a question of
personal jurisdiction. Pope v. Atlantic Coast Line R.
Co., 345 U.S. 379; Miles v. Illinois Central R.
Co., 315 U.S. 698; Kepner, 314 U.S. 44; and
Denver & Rio Grande Western R. Co. v. Terte, 284
U.S. 284, distinguished. Moreover, all these cases, save
Pope, were decided before this Court's
transformative decision on personal jurisdiction in
International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310.
2. The Montana courts' exercise of personal jurisdiction
under Montana law does not comport with the Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process Clause. Only the propriety of
general personal jurisdiction is at issue here because
neither Nelson nor Tyrrell alleges injury from work in or
related to Montana.
A state court may exercise general jurisdiction over
out-of-state corporations when their "affiliations with
the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to
render them essentially at home in the forum State."
Daimler, 571 U.S. ___, at. The "paradigm"
forums in which a corporate defendant is "at home"
are the corporation's place of incorporation and its
principal place of business, e.g., id., at ___, but
in an "exceptional case, " a corporate
defendant's operations in another fo- rum "may be so
substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation
at home in that State, " id., at, n. 19.
Daimler involved no FELA claim or railroad
defendant, but the due process constraint described there
applies to all state-court assertions of general jurisdiction
over nonresident defendants; that constraint does not vary
with the type of claim asserted or business enterprise sued.
Here, BNSF is not incorporated or headquartered in Montana
and its activity there is not "so substantial and of
such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that
State." Ibid. Pp. 9-12.
383 Mont. 417, 373 P.3d 1, reversed and remanded.
GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, BREYER, ALITO, KAGAN,
and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed an opinion
concurring in part and dissenting in part.
cases we decide today arise under the Federal Employers'
Liability Act (FELA), 35 Stat. 65, as amended, 45 U.S.C.
§51 etseq., which makes railroads liable in
money damages to their employees for on-the-job injuries.
Both suits were pursued in Montana state courts although the
injured workers did not reside in Montana, nor were they
injured there. The defendant railroad, BNSF Railway Company
(BNSF), although "doing business" in Montana when
the litigation commenced, was not incorporated in Montana,
nor did it maintain its principal place of business in that
State. To justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction over
BNSF, the Montana Supreme Court relied on §56, which
provides in relevant part:
"Under this chapter an action may be brought in a
district court of the United States, in the district of the
residence of the defendant, or in which the cause of action
arose, or in which the defendant shall be doing business at
the time of commencing such action. The jurisdiction of the
courts of the United States un- der this chapter shall be
concurrent with that of the courts of the several
that §56 does not address personal jurisdiction over
railroads. Its first relevant sentence is a venue
prescription governing proper locations for FELA suits filed
in federal court. The provision's second relevant
sentence, using the term "concurrent" jurisdiction,
refers to subject-matter jurisdiction, not personal
jurisdiction. It simply clarifies that the federal courts do
not have exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction over FELA
suits; state courts can hear them, too.
Supreme Court, in the alternative, relied on state law, under
which personal jurisdiction could be asserted over
"persons found within . . . Montana." Mont. Rule
Civ. Proc. 4(b)(1) (2015). BNSF fit that bill, the court
stated, because it has over 2, 000 miles of railroad track
and employs more than 2, 000 workers in Montana. Our
precedent, however, explains that the Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process Clause does not permit a State to
hale an out-of-state corporation before its courts when the
corporation is not "at home" in the State and the
episode-in-suit occurred elsewhere. Daimler AG v.
Bau- man, 571 ___ U.S. ___, (2014) (slip op.,
at 8) (internal quotation marks omitted). We therefore
reverse the judgment of the Montana Supreme Court.
March 2011, respondent Robert Nelson, a North Dakota
resident, brought a FELA suit against BNSF in a Montana state
court to recover damages for knee injuries Nelson allegedly
sustained while working for BNSF as a fuel-truck driver. 383
Mont. 417, 419, 373 P.3d 1, 3 (2016). In May 2014, respondent
Kelli Tyrrell, appointed in South Dakota as the administrator
of her husband Brent Tyrrell's estate, similarly sued
BNSF under FELA in a Montana state court. Id., at
419-420, 373 P.3d, at 3. Brent Tyrrell, his widow alleged,
had developed a fatal kidney cancer from his exposure to
carcinogenic chemicals while working for BNSF. Id.,
at 420, 373 P.3d, at 3. Neither plaintiff alleged ...