Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Ford, 504 U.S. 648, 2 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 648 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

Joel I. Klein argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Robert S. Fain, Jr.*

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

Montana's venue rules permit a plaintiff to sue a corporation incorporated in that State only in the county of its principal place of business, but permit suit in any county against a corporation incorporated elsewhere. This case presents the question whether the distinction in treatment offends the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, U. S. Const., Amdt. 14, 1. We hold that it does not. Respondents William D. Ford and Thomas L. Johnson

were employed by petitioner Burlington Northern Railroad Company, a corporation owing its existence to the laws of Delaware and having a principal place of business in Fort Worth, Texas. Ford and Johnson raised a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 35 Stat. 65, as amended, 45 U. S. C. 51-60, and brought suit in the state trial court for Yellowstone County, Montana, alleging injuries sustained while working at Burlington's premises in Sheridan, Wyoming. In each case, Burlington moved to change venue to Hill County, Montana, where it claimed to have its principal place of business in that State. The trial court denied each motion, and Burlington brought interlocu-tory appeals.

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Washington Legal Foundation by Daniel J. Popeo and Paul D. Kamenar; and for the Association of American Railroads by John H. Broadley, David W. Ogden, and Robert W. Blanchette.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Montana et al. by Marc Racicot, Attorney General of Montana, and Elizabeth S. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Tom Udall of New Mexico, Nicholas J. Spaeth of North Dakota, Mark Barnett of South Dakota, Dan Morales of Texas, and Joseph B. Meyer of Wyoming; and for the Montana Trial Lawyers Association by Alexander Blewett III and W. William Leaphart.


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