Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Ford, 504 U.S. 648, 3 (1992)

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650

BURLINGTON NORTHERN R. CO. v. FORD

Opinion of the Court

The Supreme Court of Montana consolidated the two cases and affirmed the decisions of the trial court. 250 Mont. 188, 819 P. 2d 169 (1991). Under the Montana venue rules, the court said, a foreign corporation may be sued in any of Montana's counties. Id., at 190, 819 P. 2d, at 171. The court rejected Burlington's argument that the State's venue rules worked a discrimination violating the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The Montana venue rules, the court explained, were subject merely to rational-basis review, id., at 193, 819 P. 2d, at 173, which was satisfied, at least in these cases, by the consonance of the rules with federal policy, embodied in FELA, of facilitating recovery by injured railroad workers, id., at 194-195, 819 P. 2d, at 173- 174. Besides, the court said, Montana's venue rules did not even discriminate against Burlington, since Ford and Johnson could have sued the corporation in the Federal District Court for Montana, which sits in Yellowstone County, among other places. Id., at 197, 819 P. 2d, at 175. We granted certiorari, 502 U. S. 1070 (1992), and, although our reasoning differs from that of the State Supreme Court, now affirm.*

A Montana statute provides that "the proper place of trial for all civil actions is the county in which the defendants or any of them may reside at the commencement of the action." Mont. Code Ann. 25-2-118(1) (1991). But, "if none of the defendants reside in the state, the proper place of trial is any county the plaintiff designates in the complaint." 25-2- 118(2). The Supreme Court of Montana has long held that a corporation does not "reside in the state" for venue purposes unless Montana is its State of incorporation, see, e. g., Haug v. Burlington Northern R. Co., 236 Mont. 368, 371, 770 P. 2d 517, 519 (1989); Foley v. General Motors Corp., 159 Mont. 469, 472-473, 499 P. 2d 774, 776 (1972); Hanlon v. Great Northern R. Co., 83 Mont. 15, 21, 268 P. 547, 549 (1928); Pue v. Northern Pacific R. Co., 78 Mont. 40, 43, 252 P. 313, 315

*The decision below is final for purposes of 28 U. S. C. 1257(a). See American Motorists Ins. Co. v. Starnes, 425 U. S. 637, 642, n. 3 (1976).

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