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Long-Arm Statute is a legal provision that allows a state to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, provided that the prospective defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state.
Jurisdiction generally means the power of a court to hear and render a decision in a given situation. There are different categories of jurisdiction; in rem jurisdiction, in personam or personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, original jurisdiction, and pendent jurisdiction are the most commonly discussed.
Personal jurisdiction is jurisdiction over the person. A court has such jurisdiction when the person can reasonably foresee being sued in that court, by maintaining a residence or other contacts such as the regular conduct of business in the area.
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. ]
However 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.
In short, long arm statutes allow local state courts to have jurisdiction over an out-of-state company or individual whose actions caused damage locally or to a local resident. The long-arm statute may be used to get jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant who has contacts within the state which are "sufficiently substantial." An accident or injury within the state usually is sufficient to show such a substantial contact.
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.
However, as the law varies from state to state, the relevant state laws must be consulted to determine whether a prospective nonresident defendant falls within the jurisdiction of a state and can be brought into that state's court.