Legal Memorandum: Personal Jurisdiction in an Auto Accident Case

Issue: When can courts exercise personal jurisdiction under long-arm statutes in a West Virginia case involving an auto accident?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Personal jurisdiction; An auto accident; Long-arm statutes
Jurisdiction: Federal, West Virginia
Cited Cases: 471 U.S. 462
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 11/01/2008

After determining that sufficient minimum contacts exist, the court looks to five factors to determine whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction in a given case offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice:

[1] “the burden on the defendant,” [2] “the forum state’s interest in adjudicating the dispute,” [3] “the plaintiff’s interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief,” [4] “the interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies,” and [5] the “shared interest of the several states in furthering fundamental substantive social policies.”

Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-77 (1985).

With respect to the fourth factor, in the course of conducting a similar analysis where an accident took place in North Carolina and the non-resident defendant was from Texas, the Fourth Circuit noted that the place of the automobile accident is normally the place for the most efficient resolution of the controversy for several reasons:

But here more is involved than the plaintiff’s inconvenience. Where an automobile accident occurs in North Carolina, most of the witnesses will be in that state.  The cost of transporting them to Texas would in all probability be prohibitive and their willingness to travel doubtful.  Depositions are less satisfactory than live testimony.  A jury view of the scene of the accident would be practicable only if the trial were held in the state where the accident occurred.  These additional advantages to the plaintiff are […]


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