Every state has a statute that requires out-of-state corporations to register with a designated official before doing business there, but courts disagree on what impact, if any, those statutes can or should have on personal jurisdiction doctrine. A minority of states interpret compliance with their registration statutes as the company’s consent to general personal jurisdiction, meaning it can be sued on any cause of action there, even those unrelated to the company’s conduct in that state. The United States Supreme Court upheld this “consent by registration” theory over 100 years ago, but since then has manifested a sea change in personal jurisdiction jurisprudence that leaves its continued viability in limbo. Two decisions by the Court from the 2010s—Goodyear Dunlop Tire Operations, S.A. v. Brown and Daimler AG v. Bauman—drastically contracted the scope of contacts-based general jurisdiction but did not appear to address the contours of consent jurisdiction. The palpable discord makes it high time for the issue to reach the Supreme Court, as it has in the high courts of four states in 2021 alone.
So, the question remains: what is left of consent by registration? Many courts and scholars have rejected the theory, reasoning that a corporation cannot give valid, knowing consent to general jurisdiction by simply complying with a state business registration statute. This Note sets out to address these concerns; it suggests that, under certain legal frameworks—where either explicit statutory language or controlling decisional law makes clear to corporations the jurisdictional consequences of registration—corporations can indeed give valid, informed consent to general jurisdiction by registering to do business in the state.