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JACOBS v. LAKEWOOD AIRCRAFT SERV.

April 22, 1980

WINIFRED M. JACOBS, Executrix of the Estate of GERALD JON JACOBS, Deceased
v.
LAKEWOOD AIRCRAFT SERVICE, INC., et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

This case is another of that burgeoning number that are proliferating like judicial rabbits, in which service under a state "long-arm" statute is attacked. Service here was effected on the defendant New Jersey corporation under the Pennsylvania statute, 42 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 5322. Defendant has moved to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) alleging lack of personal jurisdiction. I will grant the motion.

While the immediate instrument for the assertion of in personam jurisdiction is the statute just mentioned, the ultimate test of validity is whether the defendant's presence in the forum state is consistent with Due Process protection. I therefore go immediately to the constitutional question. Inpaco, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., 413 F. Supp. 415 (E.D.Pa.1976); Watson McDaniel Co. v. National Pump and Control, Inc., 493 F. Supp. 18 (E.D.Pa.1979).

  In Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 212, 97 S. Ct. 2569, 2584, 53 L. Ed. 2d 683 (1977), it was held that "all assertions of state-court jurisdiction must be evaluated according to the standards set forth in International Shoe and its progeny." These standards were explicated in Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 327, 100 S. Ct. 571, 577, 62 L. Ed. 2d 516 (1980):

 
That is, a State may exercise jurisdiction over an absent defendant only if the defendant has "certain minimum contacts with (the forum) such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' " International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (66 S. Ct. 154, 158, 90 L. Ed. 95) (1945). In determining whether a particular exercise of state-court jurisdiction is consistent with due process, the inquiry must focus on "the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation." Shaffer v. Heitner, supra, 433 U.S. at 204 (97 S. Ct. at 2580).

 The composition of the concepts of "fairness" or "reasonableness" has remained somewhat amorphous, but a few defined specifics have emerged.

 In Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 1239-1240, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283 (1958), the Court said:

 
The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum State. The application of that rule will vary with the quality and nature of the defendant's activity, but it is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.

 In addition to the general rubric of fairness, which looks to the defendant's interest, we are instructed that we must also look to the interest of the forum state in adjudicating a dispute within its borders. Empire Abrasive Equipment Corp. v. H. H. Watson, Inc., 567 F.2d 554, 557 (3d Cir. 1977). However, this "forum interest" must be counterbalanced against two competing interests. First, if the "minimum contacts" do not satisfy the constitutional concept of fundamental fairness, the forum interest must give way. "Thus a state may exercise its jurisdiction in a manner consistent with values of federalism, but if that exercise would nevertheless be fundamentally unfair to the defendant, the power is void." Id. Second, the defendant's own state also has an interest in protecting its citizens from distant, possibly harassing litigation, especially where the alleged dereliction took place, as here, within its own borders. The rule "acts to ensure that the States, through their courts, do not reach out beyond the limits imposed on them by their status as coequal sovereigns in a federal system." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292, 100 S. Ct. 559, 564, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490 (1980). Later on in the World-Wide Volkswagen opinion, at 293-294, 100 S. Ct. at 565, Mr. Justice White expanded on the importance of the notions of state sovereignty:

 
But the Framers also intended that the States retain many essential attributes of sovereignty, including, in particular, the sovereign power to try causes in their courts. The sovereignty of each State, in turn, implied a limitation on the sovereignty of all of its sister States a limitation express or implicit in both the original scheme of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment.
 
Hence, even while abandoning the shibboleth that "(t)he authority of every tribunal is necessarily restricted by the territorial limits of the State in which it is established," Pennoyer v. Neff, supra, 95 U.S. (714), at 720 (24 L. Ed. 565), we emphasized that the reasonableness of asserting jurisdiction over the defendant must be assessed "in the context of our federal system of government," International Shoe Co. v. Washington, supra, 326 U.S. (310) at 317 (326 U.S. 310, 66 S. Ct. 154 at 158, 90 L. Ed. 95) and stressed that the Due Process Clause ensures, not only fairness, but also the "orderly administration of the laws," id. at 319 (66 S. Ct. at 159).

 At some unspecified date, some unspecified person flew from an unspecified location an airplane to be repaired by Lakewood. Defendant, however, knew that the airplane would be returned to Pennsylvania after the repairs had been made. *fn1" On March 24, 1978, plaintiff's decedent was killed when the aircraft crashed near the North Philadelphia Airport, allegedly because the repairs were negligently done by Lakewood.

 It is true that "the requirements for personal jurisdiction over nonresidents have evolved from the rigid rule of Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (24 L. Ed. 565), to the flexible standard of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95). But it is a mistake to assume that this trend heralds the eventual demise of all restrictions on the personal jurisdiction of state courts." Hanson v. Denckla, supra, 357 U.S. at 251, 78 S. Ct. at 1238, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283. In World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, supra, at 292, 100 S. Ct. at 564, the Court said: The relationship between the defendant and the forum must be such that it is "reasonable . . . to require the corporation to defend the particular suit which is brought there.' 326 U.S., at 317 (66 S. Ct., at 158). (quoting International Shoe )".

 I conclude here that the contacts of Lakewood with a Pennsylvania forum fall below that minimum which is required for constitutional fairness. Defendant is not a large corporation which intentionally places its product in interstate commerce with the purpose, or at least the expectation that it will be purchased in whatever state it may find itself. In World-Wide Volkswagen, supra, at 297-298, 100 S. Ct. at 567, the Court said: "The forum State does not exceed its powers under the Due Process Clause if it asserts personal jurisdiction over a corporation that delivers its products into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum State." Here, however, the transportation of the airplane to Pennsylvania was, so far as defendant is concerned, completely fortuitous. It made no difference to defendant whether it went to Maryland or Connecticut or even remained in New Jersey. Defendant's connection with the aircraft was entirely in New Jersey. Unlike the corporations in cases such as Gray v. American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp., 22 Ill.2d 432, 176 N.E.2d 761 (1961), defendant did not intentionally or purposefully inject the airplane over state lines. That was done by someone totally unconnected with defendant and it served the defendant not at all. It was simply the unilateral activity of plaintiff's decedent or ...


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