Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall

PETITIONER: Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A.
LOCATION: Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 82-1127
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Texas

CITATION: 466 US 408 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1983
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1984

George E. Pletcher - on behalf of the Respondent
Thomas J. Whalen - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 08, 1983 in Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Helicopteros Nacionales against Hall.

Mr. Whalen.

Thomas J. Whalen:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

As in the cases we heard this morning this case involves in personam jurisdiction over my client Helicol.

Helicol is a foreign corporation in the true sense.

It is a company organized existing in the country of Colombia, and its sole business is the transportation of persons principally in South America.

The jurisdictional issue in this case arises in the context of a wrongful death action which was brought in the State Court of Texas by the family of Dean Hall and several other families who were killed in an accident that occurred in Peru.

Helicol had entered into a contract with American construction companies known as Williams-Sedco-Horn, and this contract was executed in Peru and it was designed to be performed in Peru.

In the course of this helicopter operation it was necessary for the operation of the contract that Williams-Sedco-Horn had with the government of Peru, and they were building a pipeline from the jungles of Peru to the Pacific Ocean.

They needed Helicol to transport workers from construction sites to base terminals in Peru.

On the course of one of these trips an accident occurred in which the Respondents' decedents were killed along with two other passengers who are not involved in this law suit or this case.

The case was brought in the state court of Texas.

The only contacts that Helicol had with the State of Texas was established in the course of the hearing on a preliminary motion on jurisdiction was the fact that Helicol had a single contract discussion with the personnel of Williams-Sedco-Horn in Houston, Texas, and also in the course of five or six years prior to that contract they purchased equipment from an American manufacturer, Bell Helicopter Company.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Whalen, why were Bell Helicopter Company and Williams-Sedco-Horn granted instructed verdicts?

Thomas J. Whalen:

The Plaintiff failed to establish any proof of negligence against either of those defendants, and the court dismissed the case against both of those defendants.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Mr. Whalen, was the underlying cause of action based on pilot error?

Thomas J. Whalen:

Yes, Your Honor, against my client.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Was the pilot of the helicopter involved trained in Texas?

Thomas J. Whalen:

Yes, Your Honor.

I believe he was.

He was one of the pilots who went to Texas in the course of the agreement between Bell and Helicol for training in connection with the equipment.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Was the helicopter itself purchased in Texas?

Thomas J. Whalen:

The helicopter was purchased in Texas, yes, Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Do you not regard both of those as contacts with Texas on the part of your client?

Thomas J. Whalen:

Yes, Your Honor.

They certainly are contacts, but the idea of purchases being a basis for general jurisdiction, that is, this is a case in which the cause of action did not arise out of the purchase of that helicopter.

Even looking at it from the point of view of the purchase itself without looking at it from the point of view of the verdict of the jury which found that Bell was not at all negligent in the manufacture of the helicopter, the cause of action in this case as the jury found solely was based upon the negligence of our pilot in Peru.

There were no contacts of the Defendant Helicol in Texas which in any way was connected or arose out or created the cause of action in Peru.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Unless we regard the training in Texas and the purchase of the helicopter there as bearing on that.

Thomas J. Whalen:

Well, Your Honor, I would suggest that there was no connection and would also suggest that the Supreme Court of Texas among other things ruled that there was no connection between the cause of action and the contacts in Texas, and this is the position which I do not believe my adversary contests.