Long-Arm Jurisdiction Law and Legal Definition

Long arm jurisdiction refers to the jurisdiction of a court over a nonresident defendant who has had some contact with the jurisdiction in which the petition is filed. Generally, a state's ability to confer jurisdiction is limited by the Constitution. Long arm jurisdiction permits a court to hear a case against a defendant and enter a binding judgment against a defendant residing outside the state's jurisdiction.

Historically the jurisdiction of courts to render judgment in personam was grounded on their de facto power over the defendant's person. Hence an individual’s presence within the territorial jurisdiction of a court was prerequisite to its rendition of a judgment that was personally binding. [Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 733]. This concept was expanded by the Supreme Court in Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (U.S. 1945) where it held that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam, due process required the defendant to have "certain minimum contacts" with the forum, and that such jurisdiction may not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Following the Court's lead in International Shoe, individual states also began enacting long-arm statutes setting forth their requirements for personal jurisdiction over nonresidents.

Long arm jurisdiction is significant in cases like a driver from one state being sued in another state for damages caused by his/her negligence there; when a product shipped from another state fails, explodes, or causes damage to a local person who sues in the state where he/she resides. The long-arm statute allows local court jurisdiction over the defendant.