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BURT v. NIAGARA MACH. & TOOL WORKS

July 17, 1969

Robert G. BURT, Sr. and Margie Helen Burt, individually and as parents and natural guardians of Robert G. Burt, Jr., a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
NIAGARA MACHINE AND TOOL WORKS, Mackworth G. Rees, Inc. and Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co., Inc., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 This is a motion to dismiss by defendant Mackworth G. Rees, Inc., for lack of jurisdiction over the person of defendant. Defendant is a Delaware corporation with its principal office in Michigan, registered to do business in a number of states but not in Pennsylvania. Service of process was made by substituted service upon the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the Pennsylvania "long-arm" statute. (15 P.S. § 2011).

 It would be hard to imagine a more frustrating intellectual experience for a journeyman trial judge than the consideration of the extensive briefs and penetrating oral arguments of two intense and enthusiastic counsel who attack the problem like medieval scholastics demonstrating a theological proposition before the Angelic Doctor. Counsel have covered the subject well.

 The statute is brief. In our mind, with due respect to the wealth of judicial gloss, it is quite simple.

 15 P.S. § 2011 (Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law, art. X, sec. 1011)

 
"C. For the purposes of determining jurisdictions of courts within this Commonwealth, the entry of any corporation into this Commonwealth for the doing of a series of similar acts for the purpose of thereby realizing pecuniary benefit or otherwise accomplishing an object, or doing a single act in this Commonwealth for such purpose, with the intention of thereby initiating a series of such acts, shall constitute "doing business." *fn1"

 We believe that these few lines are clear and that their meaning would be apparent to the intelligent layman. But an examination of the extent of litigation and judicial interpretation of these few lines, and their antecedent variations, shows that from these five barley loaves and two fishes five thousand lawyers have been fed and there remains twelve baskets of crumbs (Matt: XIV, 13-21). We have put our contribution into one of the baskets, see Henderson v. New York Pressing Mach. Corp., 241 F. Supp. 425 (W.D.Pa.1965).

 A corporation is an artificial or "legal" person. It is conceived and brought into being by the authority of a sovereign state and is given certain powers and duties by its parent state and is subject to the close and continued scrutiny of that state. One such duty is the obligation of submitting to suit in the courts of that state. Far more than a natural person it must report on its activities, its whereabouts, and the persons responsible for the conduct of its affairs. When it goes beyond the bounds of its parental sovereign jurisdiction it also becomes subject to the control of that sovereign state whose territory it enters by registering its whereabouts and naming the person within that state who shall be answerable for certain of its duties. If it invades another sovereign jurisdiction without reporting its presence there it may nevertheless be subject to the control of that invaded sovereignty even though none of the persons nor any property that physically manifests the corporation's existence may be found within the invaded territory at the time that it is called upon to respond to the sovereign's control. This control generally requires such "foreign" corporations to submit to being sued in the courts of the invaded state.

 Service of process in a case filed in the United States District Court within a particular state is made under the provisions of F.R.Civ.Proc. 4(d)(3) which provides that service upon a foreign corporation may be made upon a person authorized by appointment or by law to receive such service. Pennsylvania law designates the Secretary of the Commonwealth as the party authorized by law in such cases. 15 P.S. § 2011, subd. B. The amenability of the foreign corporation to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court within the state is a matter governed by state standards. Arrowsmith v. United Press International, 320 F.2d 219, 6 A.L.R.3d 1072 (2nd Cir. 1963). In determining state law the Federal District Courts are governed by the interpretation of that law by the highest appellate court of that state. Therefore we look to the decisions of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as our governing standard.

 The defendant in resisting the jurisdiction of this court has cited a number of recent Federal District Court decisions from Districts within this state in support of his argument. We have examined these with care and we acknowledge their acute analysis of the statute and the controlling state decisions with respect to the facts of their particular cases. But they are not binding authority on this court. Therefore, and with due acknowledgment and respect, we do not find as controlling law Optico v. Standard Tool Co., 285 F. Supp. 46 (E.D.Pa.1968), and Meench v. Raymond Corp., 283 F. Supp. 68 (E.D.Pa.1968). We do not find any fault with these decisions, we find different factual situations.

 Having in mind the admonition against conflicting interpretations of the law between judges of the same District, we have considered the opinion of Judge Dumbauld in Greco v. Bucciconi Engineering Co., 246 F. Supp. 261 (W.D.Pa.1965) who found that a single entry into the Commonwealth did not contemplate the intention of initiating a series of such acts. Judge Dumbauld noted a similar result in our opinion in Henderson v. New York Pressing Mach. Corp., supra.

 We will therefore look to the most recent pronouncements of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on similar factual situations as our controlling authority.

 The most pertinent statement is that of the most recent reported decision, Myers v. Mooney Aircraft, Inc., 429 ...


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