In recent decisions, the United States Supreme Court has limited the scope of general personal jurisdiction— that is whether a non-resident corporation can be sued in a particular state on any cause of action, even those that do not arise out of events that occurred in that state. Most states, including Georgia, have statutes that allow non-resident corporations to register to do business in that state. If a corporation takes that step, has it consented to be sued in that state on any possible cause of action? The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed that question in Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. McCall, Case No. S20G1368 (decided September 21, 2021).
Cooper Tire had been sued in the state court in Georgia in a personal injury case. But, none of the events giving rise to the personal injury case occurred in Georgia. Cooper Tire was incorporated and headquartered outside of Georgia, but it had registered to do business in Georgia and appointed a registered agent for service of process in Georgia. The case presented the question of whether Cooper Tire had consented to be sued in Georgia by registering to do business in Georgia.
The Georgia Supreme Court found that Cooper Tire had consented to be sued. The Georgia Supreme Court cited to an older United States Supreme Court decision in which that court had concluded that a corporation consented to the jurisdictions of a state court by registering to do business in that state. The Georgia Supreme Court noted that the United States Supreme Court had recently trimmed back the scope of general personal jurisdiction over non-resident corporations. However, in those recent cases, it had not expressly overruled the older decision recognizing general jurisdiction by consent. After weighing a number of factors, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to overrule one of its previous decisions in which it had held that a corporation that registers to do business in Georgia must be treated as a resident.
The Court noted that courts in other states have taken differing positions on whether a non-resident corporation consent to general personal jurisdiction by registering to do business. This may be an issue the United States Supreme Court needs to resolve.
The opinion is available at https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/s20g1368.pdf