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INSURANCE CORP. OF IRELAND, LTD. et al., Petitioners, 456 U.S. 694

Syllabus

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) provides that a district court, as a sanction for failure to comply with discovery orders, may enter "[a]n order that the matters regarding which the [discovery] order was made or any other designated facts shall be taken to be established for the purposes of the action in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order." Asserting diversity jurisdiction, respondent, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in the Republic of Guinea, filed suit against various insurance companies in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to recover on a business interruption policy. When certain of the defendants (a group of foreign insurance companies, including petitioners) raised the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction, respondent attempted to use discovery in order to establish jurisdictional facts. After petitioners repeatedly failed to comply with the court's orders for production of the requested information, the court warned them that unless they complied by a specified date, it would assume, pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A), that it had personal jurisdiction. When petitioners again failed to comply, the court imposed the sanction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that imposition of the sanction fell within the trial court's discretion under Rule 37(b)(2)(A) and that the sanction did not violate petitioners' due process rights.

Held:

1. Rule 37(b)(2)(A) may be applied to support a finding of personal jurisdiction without violating due process. Unlike subject-matter jurisdiction, which is an Art. III as well as a statutory requirement, the requirement that a court have personal jurisdiction flows from the Due Process Clause and protects an individual liberty interest. Because it protects an individual interest, it may be intentionally waived, or for various reasons a defendant may be estopped from raising the issue. Due process is violated by a rule establishing legal consequences of a failure to produce evidence only if the defendant's behavior will not support the presumption that "the refusal to produce evidence material to the administration of due process was but an admission of the want of merit in the asserted defense." Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas, 212 U.S. 322, 351, 29 S.Ct. 370, 380, 53 L.Ed. 530. A proper application of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) will, as a matter of law, support such a presumption. Pp. 701-707.

2. The District Court did not abuse its discretion in applying Rule 37(b)(2)(A) in this case. The record establishes that imposition of the sanction here satisfied the Rule's requirements that the sanction be both "just" and specifically related to the particular "claim" that was at issue in the discovery order.