BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrell

137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017)

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BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrell

United States Supreme Court
137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017)

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Facts

In March 2011, Robert Nelson (plaintiff) brought an action against BNSF Railway Company (defendant) in Montana state court under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), seeking recovery for injuries he sustained during his employment with BNSF. In May 2014, Kelli Tyrell (plaintiff) brought a FELA action on behalf of her late husband’s estate against BNSF in Montana state court, claiming that her husband had developed fatal cancer after being exposed to carcinogens during his employment with BNSF. Neither Nelson nor Tyrell alleged that the injuries arose from or were related to work performed in Montana. BNSF moved to dismiss both actions, arguing that it could not be considered at home in Montana for purposes of general personal jurisdiction. BNSF was a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Texas. It had roughly 2,000 miles of railroad track in Montana, which was 6 percent of its nationwide track mileage. The company also had approximately 2,100 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, in Montana. The trial court granted BNSF’s motion in Nelson’s action and denied BNSF’s motion in Tyrell’s action. The Montana Supreme Court consolidated the actions and held that a Montana state court could exercise general personal jurisdiction over BNSF, both because § 56 of FELA authorized personal jurisdiction over railroads “doing business” in a state and because Montana’s rules of civil procedure authorized personal jurisdiction over persons “found within” the state. The court said that BNSF’s track and employees in Montana meant that it was both “doing business” in and “found within” Montana. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Sotomayor, J.)

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