Bendix Autolite Corporation v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc.

PETITIONER: Bendix Autolite Corporation
RESPONDENT: Midwesco Enterprises, Inc.
LOCATION: Pima County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 87-367
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 486 US 888 (1988)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1988

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Bendix Autolite Corporation v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1988 in Bendix Autolite Corporation v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1988 in Bendix Autolite Corporation v. Midwesco Enterprises, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-367, Bendix Autolite Corporation against Midwesco Enterprises, will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Ohio has a statute of limitations which requires that contract actions be commenced within a four-year period.

When Midwesco was sued in Ohio by Bendix, it invoked the statute or it's all agreed the suit was filed six years after the contract breach. Bendix, however, pointed to a further provision of Ohio law which provides that the statute of limitations does not begin to run if the defendant is not present in Ohio.

Midwesco is an Illinois company and it was present in Ohio only while it did the single project for Bendix six years earlier, the project which is the subject of this suit.

The only way for Midwesco to have had the protection of the limitation statute would have been for it to appoint an agent for service of process in Ohio.

That in turn would have subjected Midwesco to suit by anyone for any transaction at all.

United States District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit both agreed with Midwesco that this restriction on the statute of limitations defense is invalid under the Commerce Clause.

We too agree with that position and affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Although statute of limitations defenses are not a fundamental right, it is obvious that they are an integral part of the legal system and I relied upon it to project the liabilities of persons and corporations active in the commercial sphere.

The State may not withdraw such defenses on conditions repugnant to the Commerce Clause.

The burden on commerce here is excessive in relation to any interest of the State.

The Ohio statute restricting the limitations defense may therefore not be invoked to bar this suit.

Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment and the Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion.