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
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