Sam Knef Mar. 5, 2017, 9:43pm


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that the state does not have jurisdiction over Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in a personal-injury case that occurred in Indiana.

In a ruling issued on Feb. 28, the court also rejected injured worker Russel Parker's argument that by complying with Missouri's foreign-corporation registration statute, Norfolk "impliedly consented" to general jurisdiction in Missouri, as well as the argument that the Federal Employer's Liability Act, or FELA, provides an independent basis for jurisdiction over Norfolk.

Norfolk had sought a writ of prohibition directing a trial to dismiss the FELA injury claim brought Parker, who resides in Indiana.

While Norfolk owns and operates tracks in Missouri, the actual injury did not relate to Norfolk's activities in Missouri, which deprives the state of specific jurisdiction, the opinion states.

"A plaintiff may bring an action in Missouri on a cause of action unrelated to a corporation’s Missouri activities if the corporation is incorporated in Missouri, has its principal place of business in Missouri, or in the exceptional case when its contacts with Missouri are so extensive and all-encompassing that Missouri, in effect, becomes another home state," the ruling said.

None of those requirements were met, the high court ruled.

"While Norfolk does substantial and continuous business in Missouri, it also conducts substantial and continuous business in at least 21 other states, and its Missouri business amounts to only about 2 percent of its total business. This is insufficient to establish general personal jurisdiction over Norfolk," the ruling said.

On Parker's argument related to Norfolk's foreign-corporation registration statute, the high court held that the statute does not require foreign corporations to consent to suit over activities unrelated to Missouri, and that the cited FELA statute "is a venue statute that does not provide an independent ground for jurisdiction of FELA cases in state courts that do not otherwise have personal jurisdiction over the defendant."

Parker had filed his claim in St. Louis County court alleging cumulative trauma injury sustained during his years of employment with Norfolk in Indiana.

Background information in the opinion indicated that Parker never worked for Norfolk in Missouri.

His complaint did not allege any negligence or other conduct or omission by Norfolk in Missouri caused the injury, "nor does his petition set out any basis for specific or general personal jurisdiction over Norfolk other than his statement that Norfolk conducts substantial business and owns property in Missouri," the opinion stated.

According to the opinion, Norfolk had filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction at the trial court. The court overruled the motion without stating the grounds for its decision.

At that point, Norfolk filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, or in the alternative, a writ of mandamus at the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied the petition, which prompted Norfolk to seek relief at the Missouri Supreme Court, which first granted preliminary writ of prohibition and now permanent writ of prohibition.

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207 W High St
Jefferson City, MO 65101-1516

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