Law School Case Brief
Reyes v. Marine Mgmt. & Consulting, Ltd. - 586 So. 2d 103 (La. 1991)
Once it has been decided that a defendant purposefully established such minimum contacts within the forum state, a presumption arises that jurisdiction is reasonable and the burden of proof and persuasion shifts to the defendant opposing jurisdiction to present a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable. Most such considerations usually may be accommodated through means short of finding jurisdiction unconstitutional, such as choice of law rules. Nevertheless, minimum requirements inherent in the concept of fair play and substantial justice may defeat the inference of reasonableness of jurisdiction even if the defendant has purposefully engaged in forum activities reflected by sufficient minimum contacts.
Jorge Alberto Reyes, a Honduran seaman, was fatally asphyxiated while serving aboard a ship in international waters off the coast of Oregon. Plaintiff Gladis Ondina Aguilera de Reyes, as widow and personal representative of the Jorge's estate, a citizen of Honduras, filed a wrongful death action in Louisiana state court against defendant Wallem Shipmanagement, Ltd. ("Wallem"), a Hong Kong ship management corporation, and defendant Marine Management and Consulting, Ltd. ("MMC"), a Louisiana corporation, which Wallem often used to recruit Honduran seamen as members of crews aboard vessels in Wallem's charge. The complaint alleged claims under the general maritime law and the Jones Act in Louisiana state court. At trial, Wallem challenged the trial court's in personam jurisdiction by declinatory exception, and the trial court overruled the exception. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed the trial court's ruling and sustained the exception as to in personam jurisdiction. The appeals court concluded that Wallem had purposefully established sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state upon which to base general personal jurisdiction but that maintenance of the suit nevertheless would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice under the two-part contacts-fairness analysis articulated by the Supreme Court of the United States. Reyes was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the Due Process Clause deny Louisiana courts personal jurisdiction over Wallem, a non-resident ship management corporation, which maintained a corporate office in Louisiana out of which it continuously and systematically conducted a regular but limited part of its general business?
The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. The court ruled that Reyes demonstrated that Wallem purposefully established minimum contacts with the State of Louisiana. In addition, Wallem failed to prove that the assertion of jurisdiction would be unreasonable in light of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
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