Legal Memorandum: Principles of Personal Jurisdiction in WV

Issue: What are the applicable substantive principles of personal jurisdiction in West Virginia?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Applicable substantive principles; Personal jurisdiction; Long-arm statutes
Jurisdiction: Federal, West Virginia
Cited Cases: 124 F.3d 619; 185 W. Va. 558
Cited Statutes: West Virginia Code § 56-3-33
Date: 11/01/2008

Under  long-arm statutes, including West Virginia Code § 56-3-33*FN1, states may authorize courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents that commit certain acts within the state, or certain acts outside of the state, that have caused injury within the state.  See Progressive Minerals, LLC v. Rashid, Civ. No. 5:07CV108 (N.D. W. Va. Sept. 24, 2008) (citing Lozinski v. Lozinski, 185 W. Va. 558, 408 S.E.2d 310, 315 (1991) (“The intent and benefit of any long-arm statute is to permit the secretary of state to accept process on behalf of a nonresident and to view such substituted acceptance as conferring personal jurisdiction over the nonresident.”).

Because the West Virginia long-arm statute has been found to be coextensive with the full reach of due process, it is unnecessary to go through the normal two-step formula for determining the existence of personal jurisdiction. In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 627-28 (4th Cir .1997).  Instead, the “statutory inquiry merges with the Constitutional injury,” and the court simply determines whether exercising personal jurisdiction is consistent with the due process clause.  Id. at 628; see World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980).

The court is guided in making this determination by the following principles. “The exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is proper only so long as ‘minimum contacts’ exist between the defendant and the forum state, ‘such that maintenance of the suit does not offend […]