Civil Procedure--Jurisdiction--The West Virginia Long-Arm Statute
In 1957 the West Virginia legislature enacted a statute which provides that in certain instances foreign corporations would be deemed to be doing business in this state for the purpose of service of process. In enacting this "long-arm" statute, West Virginia joined many other states in taking advantage of the United States Supreme Court's decisions that expanded the extent to which states could exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresidents within the limits of due process. However, upon comparing the jurisdiction afforded by the West Virginia statute to that exercised under other long-arm statutes, it becomes apparent that this state has taken only limited advantage of the maximum jurisdiction allowed under due process. This situation is contrary to what should be the basic premise behind any long-arm statute. It is in the best interests of the residents of a state to provide the most effective and convenient forum available for the enforcement of claims against nonresidents. The limited reach of the West Virginia long-arm statute denies the residents of this state such a forum and as a result they are more often subject to the difficulty and expense of bringing actions in foreign forums. Considering that all of our surrounding states and many others have enacted comprehensive long-arm statutes, this is an inequitable situation. It allows the residents of this state to be subjected to the jurisdiction of other states without reciprocal right to bring action in their own state. Therefore, it is the position of this note that this state should extend its jurisdictional authority to the full extent allowed by due process. In approaching this problem, it must be remembered that the power of a state to exercise personal jurisdiction depends upon: (1) whether there is statutory authority to assert jurisdiction and (2) whether the exercise of that jurisdiction will violate due process rights. Thus, in trying to achieve full due process jurisdiction, there must be a legislative decision to that effect and this decision necessarily entails a determination of what is allowed by due process and how this may be incorporated into a long-arm statute. In order to deal with these problems, this note will explore the development of personal jurisdiction within due process limits. Also, the comparative ability of the West Virignia long-arm act to assert effective jurisdiction will be examined. Finally, to the extent that this comparison suggests a need for reform, alternative long-arm jurisdiction will be explored.