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COLANTONIO v. HILTON INTERNATIONAL CO.

June 8, 2004.

ANN COLANTONIO and JOHN COLANTONIO, Plaintiffs,
v.
HILTON INTERNATIONAL CO., et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KELLY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs, Ann and John Colantonio, have brought this premises liability negligence action against Hilton International Company ("Hilton International"), Gestim, S.r.l. ("Gestim"), Hilton Italiana, S.r.l. ("Hilton Italiana") and Hotel Corporation of Europe ("HCE") (collectively referred to as "Defendants").*fn1 Plaintiffs were guests at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton located in Rome, Italy, when Ann Colantonio was allegedly injured when she tripped and fell over a threshold between the bathroom floor and a rug in her hotel room. Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3), because of a lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, the Motions will be granted and Plaintiffs' Complaint against Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE will be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction and, accordingly, the issue of improper venue will not be addressed.

I. DISCUSSION

  A. Legal Standard

  A motion made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) "is inherently a matter which requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, i.e. whether in personam jurisdiction actually lies." Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n. 9 (3d Cir. 1984). "Once the [lack of personal jurisdiction] defense has been raised, then the plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence." Id. "[A]t no point may a plaintiff rely on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction." Id. (citation omitted). The plaintiff is required to respond to a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with actual proofs, not mere allegations. Id. The plaintiff is also required to establish sufficient contacts with the forum state with reasonable particularity. Snyder v. Dolphin Encounters Ltd., 235 F. Supp.2d 433, 436 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (citation omitted).

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e) authorizes that a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant of the state in which the court sits to the extent authorized by the law of that state. See FED. R. CIV. P. 4(e); Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs., Inc., 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998). However, "[t]he reach of state law . . . must not extend beyond what Due Process allows." Peek v. Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, 806 F. Supp. 555, 556 (E.D. Pa. 1992) (citations omitted). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "a state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if its minimum contacts with a forum are `such that the maintenance of [a] suit [there] does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

  There are two potential bases for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident corporate defendant under Pennsylvania's long-arm statutes — specific jurisdiction and general jurisdiction.*fn3 Id. Under 42 PA. CONST. STAT. ANN. § 5322, a court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a corporation to the extent that the cause of action arises out of the corporation's transaction of business within the state of Pennsylvania. Id. (citing 42 PA. CONST. Stat. Ann. § 5322) (citations and footnote omitted). A court may exercise general jurisdiction under 42 PA. CONST. STAT. ANN. § 5301 based upon a defendant's general activity within Pennsylvania. Id. (citations omitted). That is, "[p]ersonal jurisdiction may exist over a non-resident corporate defendant if that corporation carries on a `continuous [and] systematic part of its general business within the Commonwealth.'" Id. (quoting 42 PA. CONST. STAT. ANN. § 5301(a)(2)(iii)). Thus, in order for a court to properly exercise general personal jurisdiction under Section 5301, more contacts with the forum are required to be shown than under Section 5322, which provides that one forum related contact may be sufficient to permit the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. Id. "If general personal jurisdiction exists as a result of the defendant's activities in a forum, there is jurisdiction over the defendant regardless of whether the claim for relief has any relation to the forum." Id. (citation omitted).

  Regarding general personal jurisdiction, it is important to note that the "continuous and systematic standard is not an easy one to meet." Surgical Laser Tech., Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 921 F. Supp. 281, 284 (E.D. Pa. 1996). "Contacts are continuous and systematic if they are `extensive and pervasive.'" Snyder, 235 F. Supp.2d at 437 (citation omitted). Before a court may exercise general jurisdiction, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit requires a very high showing. Id. (citing Gehling v. St. George's Sch. of Med., Ltd., 773 F.2d 539, 542 (3d Cir. 1985)). "The standard for general jurisdiction thus `is much higher than that for specific jurisdiction.'" Rose v. Cont'l Aktiengesellschaft et al., No. 99-3794, 2001 WL 236738, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 2, 2001) (citing Clark v. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 811 F. Supp. 1061, 1067 (M.D. Pa. 1993)).

  B. Analysis

  Plaintiffs broadly allege that this Court has personal jurisdiction over Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE. They do not specify whether the personal jurisdiction is specific or general.*fn4 Regarding the issue of personal jurisdiction, Plaintiffs' Complaint and responses to the outstanding Motions rely exclusively upon allegations that Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE conduct or engage in business activities in Pennsylvania. Thus, it appears that Plaintiffs assert that this Court has general personal jurisdiction. There are no allegations that Ann Colantonio's alleged accident arose from any contact of Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE within the forum. Consequently, the facts alleged do not support the assertion of specific personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania over the named Defendants. As a result, the Court will focus its analysis on whether general personal jurisdiction exists over Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE.

  Gestim, the owner of the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, is organized under the laws of Italy and has its registered office in Milan, Italy. (Gestim's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶¶ 3-5). Gestim asserts that it "does not operate, conduct, engage in or carry on a business, or business ventures in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." (Id., ¶ 10). Hilton Italiana, the manager of the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, is incorporated in Italy and has its principal place of business in Rome, Italy. (Hilton Italiana's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶¶ 3-5). Similar to Gestim, Hilton Italiana states that it "does not operate, conduct, engage in or carry on a business, or business ventures in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." (Id., ¶ 10). As for HCE, the parent company of Hilton Italiana, it is organized under the laws of the state of New York with its principal place of business located in Rome, Italy. (HCE's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶ 3-6). In conjunction with Gestim and Hilton Italiana, HCE states that it also "does not operate, conduct, engage in or carry on a business, or business ventures in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." (Id., ¶ 13). Based upon the above, all three entities assert that they do "not regularly, continuously or systematically transact business in Pennsylvania," therefore, they do not have "the requisite continuous, systematic, and substantial contacts to establish general personal jurisdiction." (Gestim's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶ 13; Hilton Italiana's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶ 13; HCE's Mot. to Dismiss, ¶ 16).

  Plaintiffs respond to the aforementioned arguments by claiming that personal jurisdiction is proper in this case because Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE engage in continuous and substantial business activities in Pennsylvania. In support of this claim, Plaintiffs make broad references to the complex interactions between the large "network" of Hilton hotels and attendant subsidiaries, as well as assert generalized statements regarding interrelated advertising and promotional activities.*fn5 However, Plaintiffs primarily focus their argument upon a call center located in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which is operated by Hilton Reservations Worldwide.*fn6 Plaintiffs claim that Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE, through their parent and sister corporations, Hilton International, Hilton Hotel Corporation and Hilton Reservations Worldwide, own and operate a business enterprise in Pennsylvania.

  While Plaintiffs may assert valid arguments, they fail to present any competent evidence to meet their burden of proof showing that this Court has personal jurisdiction. See Time, 735 F.2d at 66 n. 9 (stating that "the plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence"); see also Hurley v. Cancun Playa Oasis Int'l Hotels, No. 99-574, 1999 WL 718556, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 31, 1999) (stating that "[g]eneral averments in an unverified complaint or response without the support of sworn affidavits or other competent evidence are insufficient to establish jurisdictional facts"). Plaintiffs contend that Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE conduct a continuous and systematic part of their general business within the Commonwealth, however, they do not present any evidence in support of their contentions. Without any evidence regarding the actual contacts of Gestim, Hilton Italiana and HCE within Pennsylvania the Court cannot determine whether the corporations did, in fact, conduct a continuous and systematic part of their general business within the Commonwealth. Thus, although Plaintiffs may have been able to establish a basis of general personal ...


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