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Until recently, Kentucky courts interpreted the Kentucky long-arm statute as permitting jurisdiction to the full extent of federal due process, which meant that if federal due process permitted personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the long-arm statute did as well.[1] The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed course in 2011 and held that Kentucky courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident only in the nine specific instances set out in the long-arm statute.[2]  Now, a Kentucky court must engage in a two-step process to determine if it may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant.  First, the court must determine whether personal jurisdiction over the defendant will satisfy the requirements of any one of the nine specific categories set out in the long-arm statute, and second, the court must determine whether federal due process will permit the court to exercise personal jurisdiction.[3]   

Federal due process requires that a nonresident defendant have minimum contacts with the forum state “such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’”[4]  Thus, where there are no activities, ties, or contacts with Kentucky, courts within the state will not have personal jurisdiction over the nonresident.[5] 

Where a defendant comes into the state, his or her physical presence alone satisfies due process because it is one of the continuing traditions of the legal system that defines the due process standard of “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”[6] When the plaintiff cannot serve the nonresident defendant in the state, personal jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant falls into two categories: general personal jurisdiction and specific personal jurisdiction.[7]    

Courts exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in cases in which the claim arises from one or more acts of the defendant in the forum state.[8]  Courts may not exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant unless the defendant has purposefully availed itself “of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.”[9]  A “random, fortuitous, or attenuated contact” will not permit a Kentucky court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction under federal due process.[10]  Thus, for instance, a single eBay sale by a nonresident to a Kentucky resident will not allow a Kentucky court to exercise personal jurisdiction over the nonresident seller.[11]  Likewise, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that a foreign manufacturer is not subject to personal jurisdiction in a state simply because one of its machines makes its way into the state through the stream of commerce.[12] 

Under general personal jurisdiction, the defendant’s contacts with the forum state are so “continuous and systematic” that the state’s courts have jurisdiction over all claims whether the claims are related to the defendant’s contacts with the forum state or not.[13]  The threshold for establishing general jurisdiction is substantial, and thus the fact that a nonresident defendant maintains a website that continuously reaches Kentucky residents or advertises in national magazines to which Kentucky residents subscribe will not be enough to subject the defendant to general personal jurisdiction.[14] 

Note: The foregoing post includes commentary reprinted from the forthcoming 2012 supplement to Rules of Civil Procedure Annotated, 6th ed. (Vols. 6 & 7, Kentucky Practice Series), by David V. Kramer and Todd V. McMurtry, with permission of the authors and publisher. Copyright (c) 2012Thomson Reuters. For more information about this publication please visit http://store.westlaw.com/rules-of-civil-procedure-annotated-6th-vols-6-7-kentucky/130503/11774808/productdetail.

David Kramer is a Northern Kentucky attorney practicing at Dressman Benzinger LaVelle psc.

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[1] Cummings v. Pitman, 239 S.W.3d 77, 84-85 (Ky. 2007); Wilson v. Case, 85 S.W.3d 598, 592 (Ky. 2002).

[2] Hinners v. Robey, 336 S.W.3d 891, 895 (Ky. 2011); Caesars Riverboat Casino, LLC v. Beach, 336 S.W.3d 51, 56 (Ky. 2011).

[3] Id.

[4] Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 2846, 2853 (2011) (quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

[5] See, e.g., Halderman v. Sanderson Forklifts Co., 818 S.W.2d 270, 274 (Ky. App. 1991).

[6] Burnham v. Superior Court of California, County of Marin, 495 U.S. 604 (1990); Perry v. Central Bank & Trust Co., 812 S.W.2d 166 (Ky. App. 1991).

[7] Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 2846, 2854 (2011).

[8] Id.

[9] Id. (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)).

[10] Hinners v. Robey, 336 S.W.3d 891, 901 (Ky. 2011).

[11] Id. at 902

[12] McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011).

[13] Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, 131 S. Ct. at 2854.

[14] Crouch v. Honeywell International, Inc., 682 F. Supp. 2d 788, 796 (W.D. Ky. 2010)

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