U.S. Supreme Court Continues Trend of Narrowing Scope of General Jurisdiction Over Foreign Defendants

A trend is apparent only in hindsight. It is now reasonably clear that the United States Supreme Court has, over the last several years, restricted access to United States courts by litigants seeking to recover from foreign defendants for alleged wrongdoing outside of the United States. Thus, the Court has reinvigorated the presumption against the extraterritorial application of United States law (Morrison v. National Australia Bank); rejected the argument that foreign subsidiaries of a United States parent corporation would be amenable to suit based on general jurisdiction simply because a small percentage of their goods were continuously shipped to the forum state (Goodyear v. Brown); and held that the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to the Alien Tort Statute (Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum). Each decision had the effect of narrowing access to United States courts for claims against foreign corporations based upon conduct that took place outside of the United States.