Bnsf Railway Co. v. Tyrrell

137 S.Ct. 1549 (2017)


Nelson (P), a North Dakota resident, brought a FELA suit against BNSF (D) in a Montana state court to recover damages for knee injuries P allegedly sustained while working for D as a fuel-truck driver. Tyrrell (P), appointed in South Dakota as the administrator of her husband Brent Tyrrell’s estate, similarly sued D under FELA in a Montana state court. Tyrrell (P) alleged a fatal kidney cancer from exposure to carcinogenic chemicals while working for D. Neither plaintiff alleged injuries arising from or related to work performed in Montana; indeed, neither appears ever to have worked for D in Montana. D is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Texas. It operates railroad lines in 28 States. D has 2,061 miles of railroad track in Montana (about 6% of its total track mileage of 32,500), employs some 2,100 workers there (less than 5% of its total workforce of 43,000), generates less than 10% of its total revenue in the State, and maintains only one of its 24 automotive facilities in Montana (4%). D contends that it is not “at home” in Montana and moved to dismiss both suits for lack of personal jurisdiction. Its motion was granted in Nelson’s case and denied in Tyrrell’s. After consolidating the two cases, the Montana Supreme Court held that Montana courts could exercise general personal jurisdiction over D. The court observed that Montana law provides for the exercise of general jurisdiction over “all persons found within” the State. In view of D’s many employees and miles of track in Montana, the court concluded, D is both “doing business” and “found within” the State, such that both FELA and Montana law authorized the exercise of personal jurisdiction. It also held that the due process limits articulated in Daimler did not control, because Daimler did not involve a FELA claim or a railroad defendant. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.