World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson (1980)

IRAC Summary

Issue: Whether the defendants, World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. and its co-defendants, could be subjected to the personal jurisdiction of the Oklahoma state courts in a product liability action when their business activities were based in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and they had no direct contacts with Oklahoma.

Rule: For a state court to exert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the defendant must have “minimum contacts” with the state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Application: World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. did not engage in any activities in Oklahoma that would relate to the alleged injury. They did not sell or seek to serve the Oklahoma market directly or indirectly, through marketing or advertisements. The mere foreseeability that the product could find its way into the state, without more, was not sufficient to establish minimum contacts.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court concluded that Oklahoma state courts lacked personal jurisdiction over World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. and its co-defendants, as their conduct in relation to the state did not establish the requisite minimum contacts.

Detailed IRAC Outline


The key legal issue in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson is whether the Oklahoma state courts could exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant in a product liability action when the defendant’s business operations were not conducted in Oklahoma, and the only connection to the state was the location of the injury-causing incident.


The controlling legal rule is the principle of personal jurisdiction, which derives from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court has established that personal jurisdiction is appropriate when a defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state, and the exercise of jurisdiction would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Application – Relevant Facts

  • World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. (WWV) was a regional distributor for Volkswagen and Audi vehicles in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
  • Seaway Volkswagen was a retail dealer in New York and a franchisee of WWV.
  • The plaintiffs, the Robinsons, purchased a new Audi in New York from Seaway Volkswagen.
  • The accident occurred in Oklahoma as the Robinsons were passing through the state.
  • The Robinsons filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma, claiming the vehicle was defective.
  • WWV and its co-defendants had no business presence, direct sales, or advertisements in Oklahoma.

Application – Analysis

  • WWV did not purposefully avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities within Oklahoma.
  • The stream of commerce theory, suggesting that placing a product into the stream of commerce with the expectation that it may be purchased in any state, was rejected as insufficient for establishing personal jurisdiction without additional actions directed at the forum state.
  • There was no evidence that WWV sought to serve the Oklahoma market.
  • The foreseeability that the car might cause injury in Oklahoma was not the sort of foreseeability that relates to personal jurisdiction.
  • The lack of minimum contacts would render the exercise of jurisdiction unreasonable and unfair.


The Supreme Court held that WWV and its co-defendants did not have the necessary minimum contacts with Oklahoma to justify the state court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction. The Court reversed the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision, thereby preventing the Oklahoma courts from hearing the case against WWV and its co-defendants.


The decision in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson significantly shaped the doctrine of personal jurisdiction and has been cited in numerous cases since. It stands as a key precedent for jurisdictional issues in product liability and beyond, emphasizing the need for a tangible link between the defendant and the forum state.

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