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CLARK v. MATSUSHITA ELEC. INDUS. CO.

February 5, 1993

JAMES A. CLARK and LORI A. CLARK, individually and as parents and natural guardians of JINA M. CLARK, Plaintiffs
v.
MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL COMPANY, LTD.; MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC CORPORATION OF AMERICA; and DESA INTERNATIONAL, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA H. RAMBO

 Before the court is the motion of defendant Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, Ltd. ("MEI") to dismiss it as a party in this case due to an alleged lack of personal jurisdiction. Also before the court is MEI's motion for reconsideration of this court's July 31, 1992 order. That order denied MEI's motion to dismiss for insufficiency of process and insufficiency of service of process. Discovery has taken place on the personal jurisdiction issue and briefs have been filed on all motions. Therefore, the motions are ripe for disposition.

 Background

 The captioned action arises out of personal injuries to Jina Clark, daughter of plaintiffs James and Lori Clark. The injuries were caused by a kerosene heater manufactured by MEI and distributed in the United States by DESA International ("DESA"). *fn1"

 Based on this accident, Plaintiffs filed three separate actions in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania against DESA, MEI, and Matsushita Electric Company of America ("MECA"), respectively. All three actions were removed to this court and consolidated into the captioned action.

 MECA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MEI, is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in New Jersey. (MEI's Reply at 2.) MECA distributes various products manufactured by MEI, including Quasar, Panasonic, and Technics name-brands. (Id. at 4.) It has had a registered office in Pennsylvania since 1969. *fn2" (Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition at 4.)

 DESA is a Kentucky corporation and is the admitted distributor of the subject kerosene heater. (Answer of DESA International at P 5; MEI's Reply at 2-3.)

 Prior to the removal and consolidation of the other two actions into the captioned action, MEI filed a motion to dismiss alleging lack of personal jurisdiction over MEI and insufficiency of process and service of process with respect to MEI. This court deferred a decision on the personal jurisdiction issue pending limited discovery on the matter, but proceeded to address the service and process issues. In a memorandum dated July 31, 1992, this court found that service of process and the process itself were adequate and denied MEI's motion to dismiss on those grounds. MEI filed a motion for reconsideration of that order or, in the alternative, for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(d). Since the filing of the motion for reconsideration, discovery with respect to personal jurisdiction has been completed and briefs on the issue have been filed.

 Discussion

 I. Personal Jurisdiction

 A defendant bears the initial burden of raising lack of personal jurisdiction because it is a waivable defense under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(1). Once the defense is raised, however, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove that the exercise of jurisdiction is permissible. Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 121 L. Ed. 2d 29, 113 S. Ct. 61 (1992); Allied Leather Corp. v. Altama Delta Corp., 785 F. Supp. 494, 497 (M.D. Pa. 1992) ("Allied Leather"); 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1351, at 248 (1990). "The burden of establishing the requisite jurisdictional facts rests on the plaintiff as the party alleging their existence." Lucas v. Gulf & W. Indus., Inc., 666 F.2d 800, 805 (3d Cir. 1981) ("Lucas") (citing McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 80 L. Ed. 1135, 56 S. Ct. 780 (1936)).

 The standard by which a court must judge a Rule 12(b)(2) motion differs from that governing analysis of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984) ("Time Share Vacation Club"); Savin Corp. v. Heritage Copy Prod., Inc., 661 F. Supp. 463, 466 (M.D. Pa. 1987)("Savin"). While a Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires a court to accept the allegations of the non-moving party as true, a Rule 12(b)(2) motion "requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, i.e., whether in personam jurisdiction actually lies." Time Share Vacation Club, 735 F.2d at 66 n.9.

 Id.

 The United States Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have recognized that "the analysis of whether a state may exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident individual must be tested against both statutory and constitutional standards." Kenny v. Alexson Equip. Co., 495 Pa. 107, 432 A.2d 974, 980 (Pa. 1981) (citing McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220, 2 L. Ed. 2d 223, 78 S. Ct. 199 (1957)). Under Pennsylvania law, however, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction to the fullest extent allowed by the United States Constitution. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 5308, 5322(b). Thus, in Pennsylvania the statutory assessment of jurisdiction collapses into the constitutional one.

 Due process requires that the defendant have "minimum contacts" with the forum state such that maintenance of the action does not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945).

 The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment limits the power of a state to exert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. The constitutional touchstone of the determination whether an exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with due process remains whether the defendant purposefully established 'minimum contacts' in the forum state.

 Asahi Metal Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 108-109, 94 L. Ed. 2d 92, 107 S. Ct. 1026 (1987) (quotations omitted) (plurality opinion). In order to satisfy the minimum contacts requirement, the court must be able to point to "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 law." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528, 105 S. Ct. 2174 (1985).

 There are two distinct bases for finding that a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction.

 If the plaintiff's cause of action arises out of a defendant's forum-related activities, that defendant may be subject to the state's jurisdiction under 'specific jurisdiction' so long as jurisdiction is authorized by a 'longarm' statute and the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state as defined by International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945). See Reliance Steel Prods. Co. v. Watson, Ess, Marshall & Enggas, 675 F.2d 587, 588 (3d Cir. 1982). If the claim is connected to a defendant's non-forum related activities, a defendant may be subject to the 'general' jurisdiction of the court so long as it has 'continuous and substantial' attachments with the forum state.

 Allied Leather, 785 F. Supp. at 497. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404, 104 S. Ct. 1868 (1984).

 In this case, Plaintiffs have not specified whether they seek specific or general jurisdiction over Defendant MEI. Instead, Plaintiffs have made a blanket assertion that jurisdiction with respect to MEI is proper based on the contacts of MEI and its subsidiaries with the forum. Those alleged contacts are:

 1) MECA has maintained a registered office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1969 and continues to do so. ...


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