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KNAPP v. FRANKLIN COACH CO.

October 16, 1973

Fred R. KNAPP and Lillian M. Knapp
v.
FRANKLIN COACH COMPANY and Paul Able v. WAGNER MOTOR SALES, INC.


Knox, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

There is before the court another of the myriad of cases questioning jurisdiction in personam as the result of the widespread enactment of so-called "longarm" statutes by the various states. Pennsylvania is a recent comer in this field and we are primarily concerned with the new codification contained in Act No. 271 of November 15, 1972, effective February 13, 1973, 42 Purdon's Supplement, Appendix 2, Sections 8301, et seq., particularly Section 8309(b), wherein the Pennsylvania Legislature states that its courts are to exercise jurisdiction and venue over all foreign corporations to "the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States." This statute was apparently enacted after a series of acts attempting to push back the perimeters of Pennsylvania's jurisdiction over foreign corporations and individuals causing damage in Pennsylvania which attempts had been frustrated by a series of limiting decisions of the courts.

 We have before us a diversity action arising out of a collision which occurred in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on August 2, 1971, when plaintiff's automobile was struck by a tractor bearing Indiana license plates operated on the business of the defendant, Franklin Coach Company. Franklin Coach Company claimed that the brake system on the tractor had failed as a result of faulty workmanship by the third party defendant, Wagner Motor Sales, Inc., an Ohio Corporation and instituted proceedings to join Wagner as a third party defendant. Particularly, it was claimed that the tractor in question had been repaired at Wagner's place of business in Wauseon, Ohio (near the Ohio Turnpike, west of Toledo in the western part of Ohio) and in the course of repairs, the mechanic had moved the exhaust pipe so that it was in a dangerous juxtaposition or in contact with the brake line containing the fluid used for applying the brakes on the tractor and that as the result of the dangerous position, the brake line was severed and the tractor was left without brakes which caused the collision.

 The defendant Wagner had previously filed a motion to dismiss which was denied by order of this court on June 4, 1973, without prejudice to renewal of the same after the facts pertaining to it had been fully developed. Third party defendant now claiming that these facts have been fully developed, has filed a second motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over it, pursuant to Rule 12(b) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The question involved may be stated as follows: "Is a repairman who performs repairs on a motor vehicle in another state without specific notice that the vehicle is to be driven into the State of Pennsylvania liable when the vehicle is subsequently involved in a collision in Pennsylvania as the result of the negligent performance of such repairs but without the failure of any part installed by him?" It is the court's opinion that in the present state of the law, the question will have to be answered in the negative.

 Other evidence indicates that the truck tractor which was repaired bore an Indiana license plate, although third party defendant stated that no attention was paid to the license plates of vehicles being repaired. It further appears that the defendant Franklin Coach Company located in Nappanee, Indiana was engaged in transportation at the time as a private hauler and hence the vehicle bore no Interstate Commerce Commission certificate number from which information might have been derived that the vehicle was going on into Pennsylvania, approximately 225 miles to the east. There is no showing that this automobile service garage had ever repaired vehicles for this customer before and hence would have no knowledge of the scope of its operation.

 In reaching a solution to our question, we will have to break new ground in view of the recent adoption by the Pennsylvania Legislature of its new Long Arm Statute, 42 P.S. 8301 et seq. The relevant Sections are 8301, 8302, 8303, 8307, 8308 and 8309 which are set forth in the Appendix attached to this opinion. This legislation was approved November 15, 1972, effective ninety days thereafter or February 13, 1973. It was pursuant to this statute that service upon the third party defendant was effected.

 It is noted that Section 8303 might be broad enough to cover this situation but it clearly applies only to tortious acts of individuals. We must particularly therefore determine whether Pennsylvania has jurisdiction under Section 8309 governing foreign corporations. It is noted that the five situations specified in subsection (a) of 8309 are inapplicable to this case except possibly number three: "The shipping of merchandise directly or indirectly into or through this Commonwealth".

 We do not, however, have to concern ourselves with this problem (As noted, the part itself installed by the third party defendant on the vehicle which subsequently came into Pennsylvania did not fail.) because of subsection (b) which reads:

 
"Exercise of full constitutional power over foreign corporations. -- In addition to the provisions of subsection (a) of this section the jurisdiction and venue of courts of the Commonwealth shall extend to all foreign corporations and the powers exercised by them to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States."

 We must, therefore, consider, at least partially, what are the perimeters of Pennsylvania jurisdiction over foreign corporations under the United States Constitution.

 Recently, this court was reversed by the Third Circuit in Gorso v. Bell Equipment Corporation, 3 Cir., 476 F.2d 1216, reversing 330 F. Supp. 834 (W.D. Pa. 1971) for extending Pennsylvania jurisdiction to include a French corporation which had manufactured a crane which was sold to the distributor and ultimately came to Pennsylvania where it caused injuries to Pennsylvania plaintiff. The Circuit held that Pennsylvania decisions under prior Pennsylvania Statutes, despite the numerous amendments by the Pennsylvania Legislature in an attempt to meet limiting court decisions, did not extend jurisdiction to a single isolated incident such as sending a piece of machinery through the stream of Interstate or Foreign Commerce into Pennsylvania. The court, however, specifically disclaimed any holding that jurisdiction could not be effected under 42 P.S. 8309(b) since service had not been attempted under it. It further held that in view of the statutory construction of the Pennsylvania Statute, the court would not reach the Constitutional question raised by 8309(b). It specifically was the holding of the court that there were insufficient activities within Pennsylvania to render the French corporation subject to personal service under previous Pennsylvania legislation.

 On the other side of the coin, however, is the recent decision of McCrory Corporation v. Girard Rubber Corporation (Pa. Super. 1973) 225 Pa. Super. 45, 307 A.2d 435. McCrory involved the shipping of merchandise indirectly into the state. It was a suit against a manufacturer of rubber tips which were affixed to toy bows and arrows by a Tennessee manufacturer and then in turn shipped to McCrory, a large national chain of stores, which made a sale in Pennsylvania of a defective rubber tip which resulted in injury to a minor's eye. In a suit by the store chain against the manufacturer of the rubber, the Superior Court upheld a lower court decision sustaining service upon the manufacturer under prior Pennsylvania law. The court reiterated the minimum contacts test under International Shoe Company v. Washington, infra, and quoted at length from the decision of the ninth circuit in Duple Motor Bodies Limited v. Hollingsworth, 417 F.2d 231 (9th Cir. 1969) involving a British manufacturer of coach bodies which brought injury to a person in Hawaii as follows:

 
"We do not regard it as offensive to fair play or substantial justice or an undue burden on foreign trade to require a manufacturer to defend his product wherever he himself has placed it, either directly or through the normal distributive channels of trade. If it is clearly foreseeable as a result of trade with a foreign state that injury from a defective product (if it occurs) would occur in that state, the hardship of defending ...

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