Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz

471 U.S. 462 (1985)

Quick Summary

Quick Summary Icon

Brian MacShara and John Rudzewicz (the defendants) both approved of the franchises of Burger King (the plaintiff).  Rudzewicz spent $165,000 for equipment in Miami, Burger King’s headquarters. According to the franchise agreement, the defendants in Miami owed Burger King Corp. a royalty fee. The defendants were unable to make the required payments. Burger King filed a federal lawsuit against the defendant for breach of contract, asserting diversity and trademark jurisdiction. The defendants argued jurisdiction over the subject matter. Burger King won monetary compensation and an injunction. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision because it lacked jurisdiction. USSC granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Rule of Law Icon

If it can be shown that a defendant intentionally set up minimum connections in the forum state, then several things can be looked at to see if the claim of personal jurisdiction would be fair and substantial.

Facts of the Case

Facts of the case Icon

Brian MacShara and John Rudzewicz (the defendants) filed together for a Burger King franchise in Detroit. MacShane and Rudzewicz worked out the agreement with Burger King Corp.’s (defendant) district office in Michigan and their headquarters in Miami. Both individuals were awarded franchises, and MacShara studied at a Miami Burger King management school. In Miami, where Burger King has its corporate headquarters, Rudzewicz spent $165,000 on restaurant equipment. Per the franchise agreement’s terms, the royalty fee needed to be paid by the defendants to Burger King Corp. in Miami. Because of financial constraints, MacShara and John Rudzewicz could not make these payments.

In a Florida federal court, Burger King Corp. filed a breach of contract lawsuit against them. Using diversity and trademark jurisdiction, Burger King argued that the Federal Court was the proper venue. In their defense, MacShara and Rudzewicz argued that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over them. The Court disapproved of their argument and decided to favor Burger King, giving them money and an injunction. Because the district court lacked personal jurisdiction, the Court of appeals cleared the verdict. Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari.


Issue Icon

Does the state law where the franchisee files suit for breach of the contract still apply if the franchisee does not reside in the state where the franchisor is located?

Holding and Conclusion

Analysis Icon


The mere existence of a contract between an individual and a non-resident party does not provide sufficient contact with the other party’s forum to warrant the establishment of personal jurisdiction there. To ascertain whether a defendant knowingly created minimal contacts inside the forum, one must look at the parties’ actual course of business, the wording of the contract, as well as any earlier agreements, and anticipated outcomes.

The Court decided that the franchisee didn’t break the Fourteenth Amendment’s “due process” clause because he had a significant and ongoing relationship with the plaintiff’s headquarters in the forum state. Also, they knew from the contract documents and how they dealt with him that he could be sued in the forum state. They had also failed to show that the state’s long-arm statute violated the due process clause of the Constitution by allowing him to be sued there.

Reasoning and Analysis

Reasoning Icon

Regarding the Court, forum selection provisions shall be upheld unless doing so would cause extreme hardship for the defendant. The Supreme Court ruled that the defendants were subject to the jurisdiction of the forum state (Florida) because they had knowingly taken advantage of its legal system. Due process would not be violated, the Court reasoned, since the defendants could have reasonably expected to be brought before a Florida court for breach of the contract given their “substantial and continuous” connection with Burger King in Florida.

The Court of Appeals erred in its factual determination that Rudzewicz lacked fair notice, the Court says, because the District Court found that the transaction was conducted in an orderly fashion. The FRCP states that factual determinations made by a lower court cannot be overturned unless they are manifestly wrong.

Relevant FAQs of this case

Last updated

Was this case brief helpful?

More Case Briefs in Civil Procedure