Supreme Court Discusses Jurisdiction in a Workers’ Compensation Case

While most people injured on the job will seek workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to a state workers’ compensation act, federal employees may pursue benefits for their harm under the Federal Employee Liability Act (FELA). Whether a court can exercise jurisdiction over a FELA claim depends on numerous factors, including their contacts within the state. Even if a company merely registers to do business within a state, jurisdiction may be proper. As discussed in a recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court, a state statute that requires businesses to consent to personal jurisdiction in a state and does not violate due process. If you are a federal employee and suffered harm while working, you may be owed benefits, and you should speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant invoking the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). The plaintiff alleged that he had been exposed to cancer-causing substances while working for the company in Ohio and Virginia over the course of 27 years. Although the plaintiff was not exposed to the substances in Pennsylvania, he sued the defendant in a Pennsylvania court, arguing that the court had jurisdiction over the defendant because it had registered to do business in Pennsylvania.

Allegedly, Pennsylvania law dictates that a foreign corporation has to register with the Department of State of the Commonwealth before conducting business in the state and that, in doing so, they consent to personal jurisdiction within the state. The defendant moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The trial court agreed and deemed the statute in question unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed. The plaintiff appealed.

Consent to Jurisdiction in the Context of Federal Workers’ Compensation Claims

The salient issue on appeal was whether a state registration law that claims to grant general personal jurisdiction over out-of-state corporations violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court ultimately found that the Pennsylvania law comported with the Due Process Clause, explaining that its decision was supported by prior cases and there was no basis for overturning precedent. Further, the Court clarified that in cases arising out of similar facts, the mere act of consenting to accept service within the state satisfied Due Process if the defendant had a significant presence within the state. Thus, the Court reversed the state court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

Federal law permits federal employees that suffer harm in the workplace to recover benefits from their employer. As such, if you are a federal employee that sustained injuries at work, it is smart for you to speak to an attorney. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney with ample experience helping injured workers seek justice, and if you engage his services, he will work tirelessly to help you seek the results you deserve. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.