On an issue of first impression, the Nebraska Supreme Court recently held that the district court lacked general personal jurisdiction over a corporation in Nebraska for an injury occurring in Texas. In Lanham, the plaintiff injured himself when he struck and broke his foot with a sledgehammer while removing clips on a track project near Houston, Texas. At the time, he was a resident of Nebraska working on a Texas mobile gang. Although railroad defendant has extensive facilities, track and employees in Nebraska, it is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Texas. Also, none of the allegations of negligence in the complaint were connected to Nebraska. The district court denied the railroad’s motion to dismiss and subsequent motion for summary judgment on lack of personal jurisdiction. However, the district court did grant summary judgment to the railroad on liability finding plaintiff was solely at fault for causing his injury.

Plaintiff appealed the liability decision; the railroad cross-appealed the personal jurisdiction decision. The Nebraska Supreme Court granted the railroad’s petition to bypass the Court of Appeals, and decided the appeal on personal jurisdiction without addressing the merits of plaintiff’s appeal on liability. The Court rejected the argument that the railroad had consented to personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in Nebraska. In so doing, the Court overruled its prior decision in Mittelstadt v. Rouzer, 213 Neb. 178, 328 N.W.2d 467 (1982), to the extent that applying it outside the context of the federal Motor Carrier Act conflicts with Daimler and its progeny. “We conclude that treating [the railroad’s] registration to do business in Nebraska as implied consent to personal jurisdiction would exceed the due process limits prescribed in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. [v. Brown, 563 U.S. 915, 131 S. Ct. 2846 (2011)] and Daimler AG [v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014)]. . . . In light of the due process limits prescribed in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. and Daimler AG, we join the majority of jurisdictions and hold that a corporation’s registration under [Neb. Rev. Stat.] § 21-19,152 does not provide an independent basis for the exercise of general jurisdiction.”

Consistent with BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017), the Court held that the railroad was not “essentially ‘at home’” in Nebraska for purposes of exercising general personal jurisdiction:

BNSF’s business in Nebraska, although significant, is not “so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to render [it] essentially at home”60 in the state. Consequently, BNSF’s business activities in Nebraska do not permit the exercise of general jurisdiction over BNSF for claims that are unrelated to BNSF’s activity occurring in the state. We hold that BNSF is not “at home” in Nebraska for purposes of general jurisdiction.

Lanham v. BNSF Ry. Co., 305 Neb. 124, 138 (2020).

Nichole Bogen teamed up with attorneys Lyn Robbins, Robbins Travis, and Andrew Tulumello and Jacob Spencer, Gibson Dunn, for this win.

Nichole Bogen