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Law Update

Motor Carrier's Designation of Agent for Service of Process
Constitutes Consent to Personal Jurisdiction in New Hampshire

Estate of Chick v. C & F Enterprises, LLC , No. 2007-243 (December 14, 2007) 

Facts: The decendent suffered fatal injuries as the result of a motor vehicle collision with a commercial vehicle owned by the defendant, C & F, and operated by Gregory Combs. The accident occurred in Maine. The decendent's wife filed suit against both Combs and C & F in New Hampshire.

C & F is a New York corporation engaged in interstate transport. It did not own any property or maintain any business offices in New Hampshire, but made deliveries to various locations in New Hampshire and also traveled over New Hampshire highways en route to Maine. In compliance with the federal Motor Carrier Act, C & F had a designated agent for service of process in New Hampshire.

Both defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court ruled that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Combs under the New Hampshire long-arm statute, RSA 510:4. However, it ruled that by designating an agent for service of process in New Hampshire, C & F had consented to jurisdiction in this state. C & F appealed.

Held:  Affirmed and remanded.

Ordinarily, in order for a court to acquire jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the state's long-arm statute must authorize such jurisdiction and the requirements of the federal Due Process Clause must be satisfied. However, the actions of the defendant may amount to a legal submission to jurisdiction. A nonresident corporation's designation of an agent for service of process pursuant to the federal Motor Carrier Act constitutes consent to personal jurisdiction, at least as to any cause of action arising out of its activities as a motor carrier in interstate commerce. Thus, C & F consented to personal jurisdiction in New Hampshire. The Court noted, however, that C & F may be entitled to dismissal of the action based on forum non conveniens.


Mike Wallenius




Attorneys at Law

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