In a number of states, a defendant in a lawsuit based on QUASI IN REM JURISDICTION may make a limited appearance. Quasi in rem is a Latin phrase for a type of jurisdiction in which the court has power over the defendant's property because it lies within the geographic boundaries of the court's jurisdiction. The presence of the property gives the court jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. To invoke quasi in rem jurisdiction, the court must find some connection between the property and the subject matter of the lawsuit.
A limited appearance enables a defendant to defend the action on the merits, but should the defendant lose, he or she will be held liable only up to the value of the identified property and not for all possible damages. A defendant who makes a limited appearance and wins the case can be sued again by the same plaintiff in a different court.
In states that have no provision for a limited appearance, a defendant can avoid being subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court by refusing to appear, thereby causing a default and a consequent FORFEITURE of the property. Or the defendant can submit to the court's personal jurisdiction, defend the case on its merits, and face the possibility of full liability. The defendant must decide which course of action is best, after comparing the value of the seized property with the damages being sought by the plaintiff and considering the likelihood of winning the case at trial.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for limited appearances in federal court but instead defer to state law on that issue. A slightly greater number of courts permit limited appearances than do not. The law of the jurisdiction in which the action is brought must be consulted to determine whether limited appearances are permitted.
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