The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin Katz, Senior Judge.
Now before the court is defendant Trustees of Columbia University
in the City of New York's (Columbia)*fn1 motion for
reconsideration of the court's order denying its Motion to Dismiss or to
Transfer Venue. The court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over
the defendant and that transfer to the Southern District of New
York is appropriate.
I. Background and Jurisdictional Facts
This action stems from the untimely death of William Ash Gallant,
the teenage son of plaintiff Mark Gallant. The decedent, who
suffered from a heart condition, was a patient of Dr. Welton M.
Gersony from June 1998 until his death in August 1998. The
plaintiff alleges that Dr. Gersony is an employee of Columbia who
treated the decedent within the scope of his employment and that
he can therefore recover against Columbia.*fn2 Dr. Gersony
operated on William at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City in June.
A resident of Pennsylvania, William received post-operative care
from Dr. Gersony in New York City on at least two occasions. The
plaintiff alleges that, based on Dr. Gersony's recommendations, he
and his wife canceled William's previously scheduled July
appointment with his regular pediatric cardiologist at the
Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. While on vacation in New
Jersey in August, William died, allegedly from complications
stemming from the surgery performed by Dr. Gersony. The plaintiff
filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia
County, and the defendant timely removed the action to this court.
Columbia is a New York corporation, and its principal place of
business is New York. The defendant does not own or lease any
property in Pennsylvania. The plaintiff alleges that Columbia has
the following contacts with this forum that allow the exercise of
general jurisdiction over it: a student body that includes
Pennsylvania residents whose tuition generates income for the
school; collection actions filed by Columbia in the Commonwealth's
Common Pleas Court; at least four trust accounts overseen by First
Union National Bank in Philadelphia; fund raising and recruitment
activities in Pennsylvania; participation by Columbia professors
and other employees in conferences, visiting professorships, and
other academic activities in Pennsylvania; participation in
revenue-generating athletic events in this state; and research
contracts or agreements to conduct clinical trials between the
defendant and at least six pharmaceutical companies conducting
business in Philadelphia. The defendant does not dispute that
these contacts exist, but argues that they are not sufficient to
allow general jurisdiction.
Alternatively, the plaintiff alleges that Dr. Gersony and his
associates have numerous contacts with Pennsylvania that support
the exercise of specific jurisdiction over Columbia. Prior to
performing cardiac surgery on William, Dr. Gersony engaged in
several phone calls with the Gallants. He also sent written
materials to their home in the Philadelphia suburbs to encourage
them to place their son under his care. During William's
post-operative care, Dr. Gersony initiated a phone conversation
with his regular physician in Philadelphia. When the Gallants
called Dr. Gersony's office in July because William was
experiencing pain and discomfort, one of Dr. Gersony's associates,
also alleged to be a Columbia employee, interviewed William by
telephone and then contacted Children's Hospital regarding his
condition. In addition, after William's death, Dr. Gersony
contacted the Gallants in Pennsylvania by telephone and letter. He
also sent a letter and medical summary to William's Philadelphia
Columbia argues that this court does not have personal
jurisdiction over it. It seeks dismissal of the action or, in the
alternative, transfer to the Southern District of New York.
Generally, the question of personal jurisdiction should be decided
before a court turns to the issue of venue, unless there is a
sound reason for deciding venue first. See Leroy v. Great
W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979).
A federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant to the extent permitted by the law of the
state where it sits. See Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 4(e); see also
Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217,
1221 (3d Cir. 1992). Pennsylvania, like many other states, permits its
courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents to the
extent permitted by the due process clause of the fourteenth
amendment. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 5322(b); see also Mellon Bank (East),
960 F.2d at 1221. Therefore, the pertinent inquiry is whether
exercise of personal jurisdiction over Columbia violates the due
process clause. See id. Under the due process clause, "a court may
not assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who
does not have `certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that
the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of
fair play and substantial justice'" Provident Nat'l Bank v.
California Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987)
(quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316
(1945) (internal citation, punctuation omitted)). These minimum
contacts must be such that the defendant "should be reasonably able
anticipate being haled into court in the forum state." Provident
Nat'l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437.
When the defendant challenges the exercise of personal
jurisdiction over it, the plaintiff bears the burden of
demonstrating, with reasonable particularity, the extent and
nature of the defendant's contacts with the forum. See
Gehling v. St. George's Sch. of Med., Ltd., 777 F.2d 539, 542
(3d Cir. 1985). A plaintiff may meet this burden by establishing the
court's general jurisdiction by virtue of the defendant's "continuous and
systematic general business contacts" with the forum state.
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall,
466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984); see also Provident Nat'l Bank, 819
F.2d at 437. Alternatively, a plaintiff may show that the court has
specific jurisdiction because the particular cause of action arose from the
defendant's forum-related activities. See Helicopteros,
466 U.S. at 414. Here, the plaintiff here asserts that the exercise of
either general or specific jurisdiction is proper.
In the Third Circuit, a plaintiff must show more than mere minimum
contacts before a court may exercise general jurisdiction. Rather,
a nonresident's contacts "must be continuous and substantial."
Provident Nat'l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437. When evaluating a
corporation's ties to a forum, a court should look to that party's
"purposeful and extensive availment" of the forum, id., and
consider the degree to which the corporation's contacts are
"central to the conduct of its business." Id. at 438;
see also Molnlycke Health Care AB v. Dumex Med. Surgical
Prods., Ltd., 64 F. Supp.2d 448, 450 (E.D.Pa. 1999) (same).
This case is controlled by Gehling, in which the Third Circuit
held that St. George's School of Medicine, a Caribbean
institution, did not have a sufficient nexus to Pennsylvania to
subject the school to general jurisdiction. See 773 F.2d at 542.
St. George's forum-related activities included advertising in
national newspapers, such as the New York Times, that circulated
in Pennsylvania; counting Pennsylvania residents among its student
body; sending school representatives to Philadelphia as part of a
"media swing" intended to raise St. George's profile; and entering
into an agreement with a Pennsylvania college to establish a joint
international program combining pre-medical studies in
Pennsylvania with medical training in Grenada. See id.
at 541-42. The court found that these contacts were insufficient.
See id. at 542-43. It was particularly troubled by the
notion that a school's student body, or the fact that it received funds
from these students, could support jurisdiction:
Advanced educational institutions typically draw their student
body from numerous states, and appellants' theory would subject
them to suit on non-forum related claims in every state where a
member of the student body resides. . . . For the same
reason, the fact that St. George's may be said to derive
some percentage of its revenue from Pennsylvania
residents in return for services provided in Grenada does
not subject it to in personam jurisdiction.
While the plaintiff here has presented more contacts than those
considered by the Third Circuit in Gehling, none of these
additional contacts demonstrate that Columbia has purposefully
directed its activities to, or availed itself of, Pennsylvania.
Rather these contacts are the result of Columbia's general
participation in the type of interstate activity in which any
nationally prominent educational institution would engage. In
addition, the trust accounts that Columbia has with First Union
are part of a common fund in which 1,200 universities participate.
See Def. Supp. Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. for Recon., Ex. A
at 34. First Union is the trustee, but the funds are kept in Boston
by the custodian, Investment Bankers and
Trust. See id. at 29-30. Subjecting Columbia, or any of the other
fund 1,200 members to jurisdiction in Pennsylvania on this basis
runs counter to Gehling's recognition that a college or university
may have contact outside of its home state not directly related
to its educational purpose without ...