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World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson

Supreme Court of the United States

October 3, 1979, Argued ; January 21, 1980, Decided

No. 78-1078

Opinion

 [*287]  [***495]  [**562]    MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The issue before us is whether, consistently with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, an Oklahoma court may exercise in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident automobile retailer and its wholesale distributor in a products-liability action, when [****5]  the defendants' only connection with Oklahoma is the fact that an automobile sold in New York to New York residents became involved in an accident in Oklahoma.

 [*288]  I

Respondents Harry and Kay Robinson purchased a new Audi automobile from petitioner Seaway Volkswagen, Inc. (Seaway), in Massena, N. Y., in 1976. The following year the Robinson family, who resided in New York, left that State for a new home in Arizona. As they passed through the State of Oklahoma, another car struck their Audi in the rear, causing a fire which severely burned Kay Robinson and her two children. 1

The Robinsons 2 subsequently brought a products-liability action in the District Court for Creek County, Okla., claiming that their injuries resulted from defective design and placement of the Audi's gas tank and fuel system. They joined as defendants the automobile's manufacturer, Audi NSU Auto Union Aktiengesellschaft (Audi); its importer,  [***496]   [****6]  Volkswagen of America, Inc. (Volkswagen); its regional distributor, petitioner World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. (World-Wide); and its retail dealer, petitioner Seaway. Seaway and World-Wide entered special appearances, 3 claiming  [**563]  that Oklahoma's exercise of jurisdiction over them would offend the limitations on the State's jurisdiction imposed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 4

The facts [****7]  presented to the District Court showed that World-Wide is incorporated and has its business office in New  [*289]  York. It distributes vehicles, parts, and accessories, under contract with Volkswagen, to retail dealers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Seaway, one of these retail dealers, is incorporated and has its place of business in New York. Insofar as the record reveals, Seaway and World-Wide are fully independent corporations whose relations with each other and with Volkswagen and Audi are contractual only. Respondents adduced no evidence that either World-Wide or Seaway does any business in Oklahoma, ships or sells any products to or in that State, has an agent to receive process there, or purchases advertisements in any media calculated to reach Oklahoma. In fact, as respondents' counsel conceded at oral argument, Tr. of Oral Arg. 32, there was no showing that any automobile sold by World-Wide or Seaway has ever entered Oklahoma with the single exception of the vehicle involved in the present case.

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444 U.S. 286 *; 100 S. Ct. 559 **; 62 L. Ed. 2d 490 ***; 1980 U.S. LEXIS 65 ****

WORLD-WIDE VOLKSWAGEN CORP. ET AL. v. WOODSON, DISTRICT JUDGE OF CREEK COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OKLAHOMA.

Disposition:  585 P. 2d 351, reversed.

CORE TERMS

contacts, forum state, travel, due process clause, distant, dealer, foreseeability, nonresident, personal jurisdiction, retail, distributor, limits, resident, insurer, cases, customers, inconvenience, commerce, network, courts, minimum contact, manufacturer, interstate, consumer, mobility, highway, due process, transportation, petitioners', relations

Civil Procedure, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, General Overview, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Constitutional Limits, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Minimum Contacts, International Trade Law, Dispute Resolution, International Commercial Arbitration, Arbitration, Foreseeability, Placement of Product in Commerce