The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has launched a pilot program to facilitate long-haul trucking across the border of the United States and Mexico. The program is designed to determine whether Mexican motor carriers may operate beyond the areas along the United States and Mexico border. The program will also investigate whether motor carriers from the United States may safely operate in Mexico. The pilot program will last for up to three years in both nations. The program’s potential impact on Missouri truck accidents is unknown.
The FMCSA is implementing the program under the guidelines of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Two motor carriers based in Mexico are participating in the program so far: Grupo Behr de Baja California and Transportes Olympic. Transportes Olympic has already been approved for one motor carrier vehicle and two drivers to participate. Grupo Behr de Baja California’s approval is still pending. One factor that may affect whether the company will be approved is its safety record and the likelihood that the company may be involved in a Missouri truck accident.
If an accident victim is injured by a motor carrier that is domiciled in another country, recovering compensation may be difficult. A local state court may lack personal jurisdiction over a foreign company. Personal jurisdiction is the ability of a court to make binding decisions over a defendant. If a state court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant, that state court can decide that defendant’s case. If the state court lacks personal jurisdiction, the case against the defendant must be dismissed. The easiest way for a state court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant is residency. For example, a Missouri state court may decide a lawsuit against a Missouri resident. The Missouri resident has given the State of Missouri authority to decide by becoming a resident in the state.
Personal jurisdiction is limited by the Constitution of the United States and state laws. Constitutional limitations on personal jurisdiction were described in a Supreme Court case called International Shoe Co. v. Washington. The Supreme Court specifically ruled on the ability of a state court to have personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendant company. State courts have personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants if that defendant makes sufficient minimum contacts with the state. If the defendant made systematic and continuous contact with the state or made contact with the state that led to the lawsuit, the state court may have constitutionally approved personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant.
Personal jurisdiction is limited by state statutes as well. The state laws that govern personal jurisdiction are called “long-arm statues.” Long-arm statutes may not grant states more authority than the constitutional doctrine of minimum contacts. However, states may create long-arm statutes that are more restrictive. Truck accident victims should consult a Missouri truck accident lawyer before filing a lawsuit to understand how personal jurisdiction doctrines will affect their claim.