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U.S. Supreme Court

American Motorists Ins. Co. v. Starnes, 425 U.S. 637 (1976)

American Motorists Ins. Co. v. Starnes

No. 74-1481

Argued February 23, 1976

Decided May 19, 1976

425 U.S. 637


Though Texas' general venue statute provides that no inhabitant of the State shall be sued outside the county of his domicile, an exception where a Texas corporation is the defendant provides in pertinent part for suit outside the domiciliary county only if, at a preliminary venue hearing, it is proved by a preponderance of evidence that the plaintiff has a cause of action. No such proof is required under another exception applicable in a suit against a foreign corporation like appellant, which has qualified to do business in Texas. On appellant's challenge to the constitutionality of this venue procedure as being invidiously discriminatory in that it does not accord a foreign corporation pretrial advantages that are given a domestic corporation such as, inter alia, previewing its adversary's case in chief and cross-examining the plaintiff's witnesses, held that the Texas statutory venue scheme is not violative of equal protection, since it appears that, as a matter of practice, prima facie proof is regarded as meeting the burden of the plaintiff in a suit against a domestic corporation, with the result that a domestic corporation does not have any appreciable advantage over a foreign corporation. Thus, the Texas statutory procedure, though facially discriminatory, is nondiscriminatory in application. Pp. 425 U. S. 642-646.

515 S.W.2d 354, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 425 U. S. 646.

Page 425 U. S. 638

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