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Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929 nowhere expressly provides that foreign corporations that register to transact business in the state shall be subject to the "general jurisdiction" of the Connecticut courts or directs that Connecticut courts may exercise their power over registered corporations on any cause asserted by any person. Indeed, it appears to limit the ability of out-of-state plaintiffs to proceed against foreign corporations registered in Connecticut even with respect to certain listed matters bearing a connection to Connecticut. § 33-929(f) (allowing suit only by residents of Connecticut and persons having a usual place of business in this state. What it does provide is that the registered agent of a foreign corporation is the agent for service of process, notice or demand required or permitted by law to be served on the foreign corporation. § 33-929(a). This provision neither issues an open invitation nor expressly limits the matters as to which process may be served. Nor does it speak to the relationship between process so served and the state courts' jurisdiction. The statute simply does not describe what process may be "permitted by law."
From approximately 1950 through 1970, Cindy Brown's father, Walter E. Brown, served as an airplane mechanic in the United States Air Force, working at various bases in Europe and in the United States (i.e., in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, and Michigan). His work during those years brought him into close contact with asbestos. Walter Brown was subsequently diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a cancer that his daughter described as "uniquely caused" by exposure to asbestos. Seeking recompense for his injuries, Brown, then a resident of Alabama, sued defendant Lockheed Martin Corporation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama; the case was later voluntarily dismissed. Brown then instituted a complaint in the Connecticut Superior Court. Lockheed was registered to do business in Connecticut and appointed an agent for service, in compliance with Connecticut law. Between 2008 and 2012, Lockheed leased space in four locations in Connecticut, and employed between approximately 30 and 70 workers in the state. Conceding the absence of any basis for the exercise of specific jurisdiction over Lockheed by Connecticut courts, Brown contended that Lockheed consented to having those courts in Connecticut exercise general jurisdiction over it by registering—years earlier—to do business in the state and appointing an agent to receive service of process there. During the course of the proceedings, Brown died, and his daughter Cindy, the personal representative of his estate, replaced Brown as plaintiff. After the parties conducted jurisdictional discovery regarding Lockheed’s contacts with Connecticut, Lockheed renewed its Rule 12(b)(2) motion, and in May 2014, the District Court dismissed the case. Applying Connecticut law, the court concluded that Lockheed was subject to the Connecticut long-arm statute by virtue of its registration to do business in the state, but that the effective reach of the statute was curbed by federal due process principles. Under those principles, the court ruled, Lockheed's contacts were not substantial enough to support the court's exercise of general jurisdiction over it. The present appeal followed.
Were Lockheed Martin Corporation’s contacts with Connecticut sufficient to support a Connecticut court's exercise of general personal jurisdiction over the company?
The court affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the corporation’s contacts with Connecticut fell far short of the relationship that Due Process required to permit the exercise of general jurisdiction over it by Connecticut courts. The court noted that, the corporation’s business in Connecticut, while not insubstantial, constituted only a very small part of its portfolio. Moreover, by registering to transact business and appointing an agent under Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 33-920, 926, the court held that the corporation did not consent to the state courts' exercise of general jurisdiction over it.