DOCKET NO.: 78-952
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Minnesota Supreme Court
CITATION: 444 US 320 (1980)
ARGUED: Oct 03, 1979
DECIDED: Jan 21, 1980
Edward H. Borkon – on behalf of the Appellee
Edward H. Borkonz –
Oscar C. Adamson, II – on behalf of the Appellants
Facts of the case
On January 13, 1972, Randal Rush and Jeffrey Savchuk were involved in a single-car crash outside of Elkhart, Indiana. The passenger, Savchuk, was injured in the crash. In June 1973, Savchuk moved to Minnesota with his parents. He sued Rush in Minnesota district court and attempted to obtain quasi in rem jurisdiction based on the fact that State Farm, the agency that insured Rush’s car, operates in Minnesota. Rush and State Farm moved to dismiss, but the trial court denied the petition and allowed Savchuk to proceed. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed. Rush appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which vacated the judgment and remanded the case for reconsideration. The Minnesota Supreme Court again found in favor of Savchuk.
Can a state have jurisdiction over a defendant with no connections in the state by attaching the contractual obligation of an insurer licensed in the state?
Media for Rush v. Savchuk
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 21, 1980 in Rush v. Savchuk
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in Rush against Savchuk will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.
This case is here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Minnesota.
The question is whether a state may constitutionally exercise quasi in rem jurisdiction over a defendant who has no forum contacts by attaching the contractual obligation of an insurer licensed to do business in the State to defend and indemnify him in connection with that suit.
In an opinion filed today with the clerk we hold that the policy obligation without more does not establish a sufficient relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation to satisfy the requirement of due process.
Appellee was injured in an automobile accident in Indiana while riding in a car driven by the appellant.
Both the appellant and appellee were Indiana residents.
After moving to Minnesota, appellee commenced this negligence action in a Minnesota state court attempting to obtain quasi in rem jurisdiction by garnishing the contractual obligation of appellant’s insurance company, to which company does business in Minnesota, to defend and indemnify him in connection with the suit.
The trial court denied appellant’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
And the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed.
Now, a state may exercise jurisdiction over an absent defendant only if he has certain minimum contacts with the state sufficient to satisfy the demands of due process.
The fact that appellant’s insurance company does business in the state suggest no further contacts among appellant, the forum, and this lawsuit that would make it fair just and reasonable for the state to determine his liability for the out-of-state accident.
The necessity of establishing minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum cannot be avoided by considering the attachment procedure to be the functional equivalent of a direct action against the insurer.
If the constitution forbids the assertion of jurisdiction over the insured based on the policy, there is no conceptual basis for bringing the insurance company into the action as a garnishee.
Because appellant has no contacts, ties, or relations with Minnesota, the state’s decision of jurisdiction is inconsistent with the Due Process Clause.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Minnesota Supreme Court is reversed.
Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Stevens have filed dissenting opinions.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice Marshall.