The Commerce Clause Held No Limitation to the Jurisdiction of Federal Courts-Wahl v. Pan American World Airways, Inc.

Three wrongful death actions were brought in a federal district court in New York by United States citizens as survivors of passengers killed in the crash in Turkey of an airplane owned and operated by defendant Middle East Airlines (MEA). MEA is a Lebanese corporation operating in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, whose United States sales are made by its general sales agent, Pan American World Ainvays, Inc. The court held that maintaining a New York office and entering into a general sales agency agreement with Pan American to promote travel on MEA of passengers originating in the United States were sufficient minimum contacts to justify the exercise of jurisdiction over MEA in New York for any legitimate consequences of such activity. The court granted a motion for reargument, however, to hear the contention that the assertion of jurisdiction over MEA would constitute an undue burden on commerce with foreign nations in violation of the commerce clause. On reargument, held, affirmed. Although such an action in a state court may unconstitutionally burden commerce, when the action is brought in a federal court the burden cannot be unconstitutional since the commerce clause is a limitation upon state and not federal power.