Hess v. Pawloski
274 U.S. 352, 47 S. Ct. 632, 71 L. Ed. 1091 (1927)

  • Hess was a Pennsylvania resident, and was driving through Massachusetts when he hit Pawloski. Hess went home to Pennsylvania.
  • Pawloski sued Hess in Massachusetts. Hess argued that Massachusetts did not have jurisdiction.
    • Hess was not served in Massachusetts, was not domiciled in Massachusetts, and none of Hess’s property was in Massachusetts.
  • The Massachusetts courts found that they did have jurisdiction. Hess appealed.
    • Massachusetts had a State law that said any nonresident operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts automatically appoints the registrar as his agent for service of process. Therefore, he could be found to have in personam liability in Massachusetts.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the Massachusetts law was constitutional.
      • The Privileges and Immunities Clause says that residents of other States have the same rights as residents of that State. The Court found that both residents and nonresidents could be sued in Massachusetts, so there was no Constitutional issue.
    • The Court established the theory of implied consent to interstate jurisdictional issues.
  • Compare this case to the similar case of Pennoyer v. Neff (94 U.S. 714 (1878)). In that case Oregon did not establish jurisdiction.
    • The difference was that Oregon did not have an explicit law like Massachusetts did.
    • Laws like the Massachusetts law were becoming necessary because reality was changing. Prior to the automobile people didn’t travel much, so you normally went to where the defendant was. But now, people were traveling more.
      • Witnesses can only be compelled to come to a trial if they are in the State. In a case such as this one, if Pawloski was forced to sue Hess in Pennsylvania (which was the old way), he would have to convince all the witnesses to come all the way from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, and that would be unfair. With the advent of the car, defendants were more often found in other States, so the system established in Pennoyer was becoming unworkable.