District Court Finds No General Personal Jurisdiction Over Hungarian Railroad Company

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2014 - Personal Jurisdiction

Simon v. Republic of Hungary, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, May 9, 2014

Plaintiffs are Hungarian Holocaust survivors. They filed suit against the Republic of Hungary and two state-owned Hungarian railroad corporations, alleging Defendants transported Plaintiffs to labor and death camps in other countries and transported stolen property of the Plaintiffs during World War II. One of the railroad corporations, RCH, moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, among other grounds.

Plaintiffs argued personal jurisdiction existed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which allows for personal jurisdiction when no one state has general personal jurisdiction, if (1) the claim against the defendant arises under federal law, (2) a summons has been served, (3) the defendant is not subject to personal jurisdiction in any state court of general jurisdiction, and (4) the exercise of personal jurisdiction by the federal court comports with due process. To comport with due process, the Defendant must be “at home” in the United States. The Court held RCH, a Hungarian-owned corporation with its principal place of business in Budapest, was not. Although RCH maintained a “generally accessible” website to solicit business, these allegations fell “woefully short” of the required connection to the U.S. The Court also declined to order jurisdictional discovery because, taken together, the potential contacts could not satisfy due process to find personal jurisdiction.

[Editor’s note: The Simon case is also addressed in this report in connection with its discussion of the Alien Tort Statute.]

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