The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCLURE
Plaintiff's claim arise out of a fire which broke out at a Wendy's restaurant in Shamokin Dam, Pennsylvania on November 23, 1993. Plaintiff alleges that the fire was caused by a defect in a cash register designed and manufactured by defendant Tokyo Electric Co. Ltd. (TEC-Japan).
TEC-Japan moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the reasons which follow, the motion will be denied.
Personal jurisdiction standards
Defendant argues that it has insufficient contacts with Pennsylvania to justify this court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it. The service of process rules of the state where the district court sits govern personal jurisdiction issues. Bane v. Netlink, Inc., 925 F.2d 637, 639 (3d Cir. 1991) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e). The Pennsylvania long-arm statute permits state courts to exercise in personam jurisdiction "to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States" and to be based on "the most minimum contact with this Commonwealth allowed under the Constitution of the United States." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322(b) (Purdon 1981). The principal inquiry is whether the exercise of jurisdiction is constitutionally proper.
When personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that it is proper through affidavits "or other competent evidence". North Penn Gas Co. v. Corning Natural Gas Corp., per curiam, 897 F.2d 687, 689 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 847 (1990) and Lieb v. American Pacific International, Inc., 489 F. Supp. 690, 694 (E.D.Pa. 1990). In recognition of the "procedural and evidentiary difficulties" this burden may impose on the plaintiff in early stages of the case, courts in this circuit have adopted a graduated test which requires the plaintiff to establish only a prima facie case of jurisdiction at a stage when the record consists only of affidavits and pleadings. National Precast Crypt Co. v. Dy-Core of Pennsylvania, Inc., 785 F. Supp. 1186, 1190 (W.D.Pa. 1992).
Personal jurisdiction may be based either on the conduct of the non-resident defendant which gave rise to the cause of action (specific jurisdiction), or on the defendant's general contacts with the forum state, provided those contacts are "continuous and systematic", (general jurisdiction). Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472, 473 n. 15, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528, 105 S. Ct. 2174 (1985) and Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, (Hall), 466 U.S. 408, 414 n. 8, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404, 104 S. Ct. 1868 and 9 (1984).
"General jurisdiction exists when there are sufficient contacts to justify an assertion of 'personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit not arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum.'" Covenant Bank for Savings v. Cohen, 806 F. Supp. 52, 55 (D.N.J. 1992), quoting Hall, supra, 466 U.S. at 414 n. 9. "Mere minimum contacts" are not enough to establish general jurisdiction - "The nonresident's contacts to the forum must be continuous and substantial." Provident National Bank v. California Federal Savings & Loan Association, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987). Accord: Hall, supra, 466 U.S. at 415-16.
Specific jurisdiction is based on defendant's "purposefully directing" activity toward the forum state, Applied Biosystems, supra, 772 F. Supp. at 1470, such that it could "reasonably anticipate being haled into court there", Burger King, supra, 471 U.S. at 474; World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490, 100 S. Ct. 559 (1980) and Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283, 78 S. Ct. 1228 (1958). Proof that the defendant has "purposefully directed" its activities at residents of the forum state, "deliberately engaged" in "significant activities" in the state, or created "continuing obligations" with state residents establishes personal jurisdiction over the defendant in litigation arising out of such activities. Burger King, supra, 471 U.S. at 475-76 (Citations omitted.)
If minimum contacts exist, then the court considers whether its exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant "accords with the notions of 'fair play and substantial justice.'" Grand Entertainment Group, Ltd. v. Star Media Sales, c., 988 F.2d 476, 481 (3d Cir. 1993), citing International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945). The defendant bears the burden of showing that such is not the case, and the factors relevant to that determination are: 1) the interests of the forum state; 2) the plaintiff's interest in obtaining relief; 3) the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies; and 4) the shared interest of the several States in furthering fundamental substantive social policies." Mesalic v. Fiberfloat Corp., 897 F.2d 696, 701 (3d Cir. 1990), citing Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 113, 94 L. Ed. 2d 92, 107 S. Ct. 1026 (1987). In making this determination, if the requisite minimum contacts have been established, often the interests of the plaintiff and the forum in the exercise of jurisdiction may "justify even the serious burdens placed on the alien defendant." Grand Entertainment Group, 988 F.2d at 483.
Although jurisdictional questions are decided on the specific facts of the case, Farino, supra, 960 F.2d at 1224, in general the following are true. Unilateral acts of the plaintiff or a third party are not sufficient in and of themselves to establish specific jurisdiction because they do not satisfy the purposeful availment requirement. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 475 and Hall, supra, 466 U.S. at 417. A non-resident defendant's responses to requests or inquiries of other parties are considered in weighing its contacts, but cannot be the sole basis for a finding that jurisdiction exists. Burger King, supra, 471 U.S. at 474. "Random", ...