The answer to the question, “can out-of-state companies be sued?” depends on which state you are dealing with and the details of your situation. In Georgia, for example, any state that does business in Georgia can be sued in state court. In New Mexico, on the other hand, corporations are usually sued in the jurisdiction where they are the most “at home.”
To decide when and where out-of-state companies can be sued, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case from Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
According to Reuters, the case in question involves a Virginia resident who wishes to sue his former, Virginia-based employer for colon cancer due to on-the-job asbestos exposure. Although the company operates in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court decided that Pennsylvania courts were not the best venue for the lawsuit, and the lower court dismissed the claim.
Arguments for Suing Out-of-State Companies
The plaintiff argues that this decision is a violation of his constitutional right to sue, as well as Pennsylvania state law. Under §5301(a)(2)(i) of the Consolidated Statutes of Pennsylvania, companies that do business in the state must consent to the jurisdiction of the state’s court.
Therefore, he should be able to sue his Virginia employer wherever he sees fit.
Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas argued that it had no jurisdiction over a dispute between a Virginia resident and a Virginia company that had “no direct connection to Pennsylvania.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld this argument, adding that Pennsylvania’s law, “would allow plaintiffs to sue companies wherever they thought they were most likely to win, regardless of whether the dispute had any connection to the venue.”
How Far Does a State’s Jurisdiction Go?
The U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case of Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co (U.S. Supreme Court, No. 21-1168) on Monday, April 25 to evaluate whether laws like §5301(a)(2)(i) are constitutional.
As Ballotpedia explains:
“The case concerns the 14th Amendment and a state's ability to condition a corporation doing business in that state on the corporation consenting to personal jurisdiction.”
Usually, plaintiffs bring lawsuits in the states where they live, but sometimes, the situation is more complex. The Supreme Court’s decision could expose companies to additional lawsuits, including product liability claims, in more courts around the country.
The issue is especially pertinent because many companies have started doing business nationwide to accommodate remote work.
Where Should I File My Lawsuit?
Generally, you should file your lawsuit in the county where the accident took place. For example, if a big rig crashes into you in Geneva County, you should file your lawsuit in Geneva County, as well.
In some situations (e.g., you were on vacation at the time of the accident), you might need to work with an attorney closer to you, but you should always retain local counsel, as well.
Of course, some lawsuits span multiple states and create unique legal challenges. When this occurs, your attorney should work with you to determine the best possible strategy for your case.
If you need help filing a lawsuit in Illinois, discuss your case with Turner Law Group. We will make you our priority and offer a passionate approach and devoted personal attention.
We are eager to see what the Supreme Court decides, but we will continue strategizing for our clients no matter what.
Tell us about your case during a free consultation – call us at (800) 653-0198 or contact us online to get started today.