Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall
466 U.S. 408, 414, (1985)

  • Helicopteros was a Colombian corporation that entered into a contract to provide helicopter transportation for a Peruvian consortium as part of a joint venture that had its headquarters in Texas.
    • Helicopteros had no place of business in Texas and had never been licensed to do business there.
      • They had a few minor contacts with Texas including:
        • Sending its CEO to Texas to negotiate the contract with the consortium,
        • Accepting checks drawn by the consortium on a Texas bank
        • Purchasing helicopters, equipment, and training services from a Texas manufacturer, and
        • Sending pilots to Texas for training.
  • After a helicopter owned by Helicopteros crashed in Peru, resulting in the death of Hall’s decedents, Hall sued the consortium, the Texas manufacturer, and Helicopteros in a Texas court. Helicopteros objected, claiming that the Texas State Court did not have jurisdiction.
    • Hall argued that Helicopteros was liable due to general jurisdiction, they did not make a claim of specific jurisdiction.
  • The Trial Court found that they did have jurisdiction and found for Hall. Helicopteros appealed.
  • The Texas Appellate Court reversed. Hall appealed.
    • The Texas Appellate Court found that they did not have in personam jurisdiction over Helicopteros.
  • The Texas Supreme Court reversed the decision. Helicopteros appealed.
    • The Texas Supreme Court felt Helicopteros’ contacts were enough to establish in personam jurisdiction.
    • The Court found that that the purchases and training trips = sufficient contacts.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed
    • The US Supreme Court found Helicopteros’ contacts with Texas (listed above) were insufficient to be considered “continuous and systematic” contacts and so satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
      • To establish general jurisdiction there must be contact of a “continuous and systematic” nature.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that unlike several similar previous cases, Helicopteros contact with Texas was directly related to the lawsuit, therefore it would be fair and reasonable to assert jurisdiction.
    • The dissent felt that there was a different between contacts that were “related to” the underlying cause of action, and cases that “give rise” to the underlying cause of action.
  • This case had a different standard than the one used in International Shoe v. Washington (326 U.S. 310 (1945)) because in that case, they were claiming specific jurisdiction, while in this case they were claiming general jurisdiction.
    • General jurisdiction is not related to the facts of the specific case, but more related to where you are domiciled or incorporated.
    • If the contact with a State is “pervasive,” the court can find that there is general jurisdiction, even if there is no specific connection between the State and the facts of the case.
      • There has only been one US Supreme Court case where they have decided that there was general jurisdiction, Perkins v. Benguet Consolidated Mining Co (342 US 437 (1952)). There have been some lower court rulings, but for the most part, the courts have shied away from general jurisdiction.
    • With specific jurisdiction, the cause of action must “arise out of” the contact with the State. For example, if the helicopter crash had occurred in Texas, there would be no question that the cause of action arose in Texas and there would be no question of specific jurisdiction.
      • But this case involved a Columbian company being sued based on an accident that happened in Peru. Hall’s lawyers didn’t feel that they could win a specific jurisdiction in this case, so they decided to try and prove that Helicopteros has enough contacts in Texas that they are generally subject to Texas law.