In my February 25, 2012 post, Georgia Law on Jurisdiction: What is Jurisdiction?,
I talked about what jurisdiction means, and why it is important. I have
been practicing law for 25 years, and have seen jurisdictional issues
come up repeatedly and in all sorts of cases, ranging from Decatur medical
malpractice cases to Alpharetta car accident cases.
When someone argues to the judge that jurisdiction is improper, how does
the court decide whether or not it should have jurisdiction over the defendant
(i.e., the right to exercise legal power over the defendant)? In
Shellenberger v. Tanner, 227 S.E.2d 266, 138 Ga. App. 399 (1976), the Georgia Court of Appeals
set out three factors for a court to consider as it makes the decision
about whether to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant.
In the Shellenberger case, the plaintiff sued for damages in a
Coffee County damages lawsuit, alleging that the prior owner of an airplane had negligently repaired
and maintained the airplane, and then put the aircraft into the stream
of commerce to enter Georgia.
The first factor the Shellenberger court told trial courts to consider
is that: “[t]he nonresident must purposefully avail himself of the
privilege of doing some act or consummating some transaction with or in
the forum.” The court was clear that the defendant does not have
to be physically within the forum (meaning the place where the court is
located); for example, a defendant might subject itself to jurisdiction
by mailing items into Georgia. “A single event may be a sufficient
basis if its effects within the forum are substantial enough to qualify
under Rule 3. In fact, the court noted that “[t]he clear and discernible
trend of recent authority” is that a single act in the forum state,
coupled with “impact within the territory of the forum” was
sufficient to satisfy the ‘minimum contacts’ test.”
Shellenberger v. Tanner, 227 S.E.2d 266, 138 Ga. App. 399  (1976). See also
McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220 (78 S. Ct. 199, 2 L. Ed. 2d 223).
The second fact the court should consider is whether the plaintiff’s
lawsuit “arises out of, or results from, the activity or activities
of the defendant within the forum.” Id.
If factors (1) and (2) are true, then the non-resident does have minimum
contacts with Georgia. At that point “[t]he Georgia long-arm statute
confers personal jurisdiction over nonresidents to the maximum extent
permitted by due process.”
HTL Sp. Z O.O. v. Nissho Corporation, 245 Ga.App. 625, 538 S.E.2d 525  (2000). Then, the court has to determine
whether it would offend due process for the court to accept jurisdiction
over the non-resident:
(3) If (and only if) the requirements of Rules 1 and 2 are established,
a “minimum contact” between the nonresident and the forum
exists; the assumption of jurisdiction must be found to be consonant with
the due process notions of “fair play” and “substantial
Justice.” In other words, the exercise of jurisdiction based upon
the “minimum contact” must be “reasonable.”
Shellenberger v. Tanner, 227 S.E.2d 266, 138 Ga. App. 399 (1976).