Hess v. Pawloski – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352, 47 S. Ct. 632, 71 L. Ed. 1091 (1927).
Hess (D), a resident of Pennsylvania, negligently struck and injured Pawloski (P) while driving in Massachusetts. Pawloski brought this action against Hess in Massachusetts. The court established personal jurisdiction over Hess under a statute whereby non-resident motorists involved in accidents in Massachusetts consented to the appointment of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles as the driver’s agent for service of process. Process was served on the Registrar of Motor Vehicles as Hess’s agent and Hess received actual notice of the suit. Hess contested jurisdiction.
The trial court and the Supreme Judicial Court on appeal held that the court’s jurisdiction was valid. Pawloski won the case on the merits in a jury trial. Hess appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Massachusetts court did not have personal jurisdiction over him and the method of service of process used violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Was the Massachusetts law that stated that out of state drivers gave implied consent to the appointment of the Registrar as agent for service of process constitutional?
Holding and Rule
Yes. A state has the power to legislate that non-residents who use its highways consent to the appointment of a third party as agent for the service of process in that state for actions arising from use of the highways.
This decision came twenty years before International Shoe Co. v. Washington and used implied consent rather than minimum contacts to establish jurisdiction over the defendant. By choosing to drive in a state, a non-resident demonstrates that the state is not so inaccessible or remote that it would be unfair to subject him to suit in that state. The Massachusetts statute sought to put out-of-state drivers on the same level as resident drivers and did not discriminate against them.
This case is occasionally miscited as Hess v. Pawlowski.