Reading Notes

What is a long arm statute?

Personal Jurisdiction is limited by the scope of the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and the long arm statutes of the state. These long arm statutes are statutes by the state that say when the courts can exercise personal jurisdiction. As long as the statute does not exceed the limits of the Constitution, then the courts can follow the statute. Some statutes extend to the limit of the Constitution but most have individual provisions.

We have already introduced a case that involves a long-arm statute, Schaffer. We will focus more on Schaffer today in our lecture notes.

Bensusan Restaurant Corp. v. King

126 F.3d 25 (2nd Cir. 1997)


Bensusan Restaurant Corp is the plaintiff while King is the defendant.

Procedural History

Bensusan failed to find personal jurisdiction in the trial court and so they appealed.


To find personal jurisdiction, you need to meet the rules established by the long-arm statute.


Bensusan Restaurant does not have personal jurisdiction because they do not meet the requirement outlined in CPLR § 302(a)(2).


King set up a club called the “Blue Note” in Missouri. Bensusan has a restaurant called “the Blue Note” in New York which was trademarked. They requested that King remove from using the term, King refused, and Bensusan filed suit in the New York federal district court (federal because it’s IP law). The trial court dismissed the case due to lack of personal jurisdiction and Bensusan appealed.


I think it is important to note that this case was filed under a federal court because the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over intellectual property law, including trademarks.

The court must first address the statute in the forum state (where the case was filed) to see if it grants personal jurisdiction. If it does, then the court would see if they met constitutional personal jurisdiction. Because Bensusan does not meet personal jurisdiction requirements from the forum state, there is no need to examine Constitutionality. Let’s discuss the statute specifically.

Here, the statute says that the courts have personal jurisdiction if the tortuous act was committed within the state of New York. Because the work occurred in Missouri, New York has no personal jurisdiction.

Why should we care?

Long arm statutes need to be met in the forum state. Then you can worry about the federal constitutionality of the jurisdiction.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(A)

Personal jurisdiction exists over a defendant who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located.

In other words, the federal courts can find personal jurisdiction in the same way the states can. So, if the suit is filed in New York, they need to abide by New York’s long-arm statutes (quite limiting). Likewise, if the case is filed in a district in California, they need to follow the long-arm statute in California (which includes anything that is constitutional). This reduces how much a party chooses to file suit in a federal court vs. a state court.

Additional Lecture Notes

Federal courts need to abide by the long-arm statute of the forum state. Why does this not violate the Constitution? Because the legislature told the courts to rule this way.

Additional Notes

Specific Personal Jurisdiction

As we read cases, we need to start paying closer attention to the facts. This is because differing facts now lead to different outcomes. So, understanding the differences between cases, based on facts, will help us understand the rule of law.

Specific Personal Jurisdiction – By specific we mean that the courts exercise personal jurisdiction against the defendant is specific to the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. The claim is related to the defendant.

General Personal Jurisdiction – Is when a claim can be made against a defendant regardless of where they are.

Let’s spend some time talking about McGee

McGee wants to file suit in California for a variety of reasons (i.e. convenience). Defendants would want to argue the case in Texas. The difference here is so that each party would benefit from the jurisdiction of their state. Here, McGee filed in California and service of process (notice) occurred in Texas. Ultimately, the Supreme Court holds that California does have personal jurisdiction.

Why can California find personal jurisdiction in this case? Because of personal availmentThe insurance company purposefully entered California. Had the Texas company not sent the renewal notice to the policy holder, then they wouldn’t have had personal jurisdiction. The biggest takeaway from McGee is that even 1 contact is enough to find specific personal jurisdiction as long as is is a sufficient minimum contact.

Hanson v. Denckla

The test to determine whether the defendant have sufficient contacts in the forum state, is to see if they purposefully availed themselves of the forum state. In other words, we need to ask “did the defendant initiate a contact with the forum state?” If not, then there is no specific personal jurisdiction.


When we look at a case, we need to look at who the parties are domiciled, and where the accident occurred. Say the plaintiff is from South Dakota, the Defendant is from New York, and the accident occurred in Iowa. Where can the plaintiff sue? Remember, we are looking for the actions of the defendant.

  1. Plaintiff can sue:
    1. In Iowa, where the accident occurred, there is a claim because the defendant had a contact there (they purposefully availed themself to the state). This is a claim for specific personal jurisdiction
    2. In New York, because that is where the defendant is domiciled. This is a claim for general personal jurisdiction.
    3. In South Dakota, if the plaintiff files in the forum state and the defendant is served in the forum state. Transient personal or TAG jurisdiction. However, you would not want to do this because you have to serve a complaint within 90 days (because of statute of limitations). If the defendant does not show up in the state and served within that time, the case could be dismissed.

On a test, we will want to list every form of jurisdiction that works. So, if you can sue in one state meeting both specific and general personal jurisdiction in that state.

A good tip is to write down every state you notice in a case.

To assert personal jurisdiction you must:

  1. Abide by the due process clause of the Constitution. This rule is discussed through International Shoe with contacts, purposeful availment, etc.
  2. Have long-arm statutes

Why do we use the term long-arm? The phrase is referencing how “long” a judge’s “arm” of the the law can reach.

Other notes

The motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is a “use it or lose it motion”. You need to raise it immediately or you will not be able to file the motion later.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.