United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 15, 2005.
CHRISTOPHER R. SILVA, Plaintiff
MARYLAND SCREEN PRINTERS, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: YVETTE KANE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Before this Court are motions to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction and improper venue filed by Defendant Maryland
Screen Printers, Inc. (Doc. No. 3). The motions have been fully
briefed and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed
below, the motions will be denied.
Plaintiff initiated this civil action with a complaint under
the Maryland Wage Payment Collection Law, MD. CODE ANN., Labor
and Employment §§ 3-501 et seq., or alternatively under common
law for wages, compensation, and damages arising from his former
employment with Defendant. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff is a resident of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No.
1). Defendant is a Maryland corporation in the business of
selling screen-printed and embroidered t-shirts. (Doc. No. 9).
Plaintiff was hired by Defendant in December, 1997, for a sales
position and was paid on a commission basis. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff typically commuted to and worked out of an office in
Baltimore, Maryland; however, Plaintiff used his Pennsylvania residence as a home
office approximately four days per month. (Docs. No. 4, and 10,
part 2). Each of Plaintiff's pay-checks were issued and picked up
in Maryland. (Doc. No. 4).
Although Plaintiff's primary customer was located in New York,
Plaintiff solicited sales on behalf of Defendant in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.*fn1 (Doc. No. 10). Plaintiff
was the principal contact for five Pennsylvania customers with
annual sales of approximately $29,000.*fn2 (Docs. No. 16 and
10, part 2). Roughly 3% of Plaintiff's sales were from customers
in the State of Pennsylvania (Doc. No. 16), including but not
limited to: Berks Regional Tennis Association which is located in
Reading, Pennsylvania; and United States Tennis Association
Middle States Section which is located in Montgomery County,
Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 9).*fn3
Plaintiff disputed the basis for Defendant's assessment of
certain costs, charges, or expenses against his commission. (Doc.
No. 1). Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant refused to verify
the actual expenses and costs incurred. Id. Among Plaintiff's
disputed commissions were sales to Berks Regional Tennis
Association and United States Tennis Association Middle States
Section. (Doc. No. 10, part 2). On September 11, 2003, Plaintiff's employment with
Defendant was terminated. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court on September 13,
2004, against Defendant for non-payment of compensation under
theories of breach of contract and violation of Maryland
statutory law. (Doc. No. 1). On October 13, 2004, Defendant filed
motions to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction and
improper venue pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 3). Plaintiff filed a
brief in opposition to Defendant's motion along with a
Plaintiff's sworn affidavit on November 1, 2004. (Doc. No. 9 and
10). Defendant filed its reply brief on November 16, 2004. (Doc.
This Court has original jurisdiction because the parties are
diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
28 U.S.C. § 1332 (2004).
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
defendant to bring a motion challenging the court's right to
exercise personal jurisdiction over them. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(2). The defendant bears the initial burden of raising a
lack of personal jurisdiction. Carteret Sav. Bank, F.A. v.
Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1992). Once the issue is
raised, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish that the
exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant is proper.
Id. On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), the
plaintiff must "establish jurisdictional facts through sworn
affidavits or other competent evidence." Time Share Vacation
Club v. Atl. Resorts, 735 F.2d 61, 66 n. 9 (3d Cir. 1984) "[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. The plaintiff need only make a
prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction if there has been
limited discovery or no evidentiary hearing. Carteret,
954 F.2d at 142. After a prima facie case has been made, Plaintiff must
still eventually establish personal jurisdiction by a
"preponderance of the evidence." Id.
Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
defendant to bring a motion to dismiss for improper venue
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) (2004). The burden of
establishing improper venue rests with the defendant; in
discharging this burden, a defendant must show that upon a proper
balancing of all relevant factors, the "case would be better off
transferred to another district." In re United States,
273 F.3d 380, 388 (3d Cir. 2001).
A federal court sitting in diversity may exercise personal
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to the extent
permissible under the law of the state in which the court sits.
FED. R. CIV. P. 4(e); see Mellon Bank (East) PSFS v. Farino,
960 F.2d 1217, 1221 (3d. Cir. 1992). Pennsylvania's long-arm
statute extends personal jurisdiction to the fullest extent
allowed under the Constitution of the United States. 42 PA. CON.
STAT. ANN. tit 42, § 5322(b) (West 2004); see also Mellon,
960 F.2d at 1221. As a result, the long-arm statute is only
limited by the Due Process Clause of the United States
Under the Due Process Clause, a district court may assert
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant only when there are
certain "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum
state such that the defendant "would reasonably anticipate being
haled into court there." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v.
Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). "[D]ue process requires only
that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam, if he be
not present within the territory of the forum, he have certain
minimum contacts with it 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,
A court may exercise general or specific jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant. Helicopteros Nacionales De Columbia v.
Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-16 (1984). Specific jurisdiction applies
to claims that are "related to or arise out of" the defendant's
contacts with the forum state. Id. at 414. General jurisdiction
applies to claims which need not arise out of the defendant's
forum related activities, but the defendant has had "continuous
and systematic" contacts with the forum state. Id. at 415-416.
A district court may dismiss a case brought in an improper
venue, or in the alternative, transfer such case to any district
or division in which it could have been brought.
28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Accordingly, before determining whether a § 1406(a)
transfer or dismissal is appropriate, a court must first find
that venue was laid in an improper district.
A. SPECIFIC JURISDICTION
For this Court to exercise specific jurisdiction over Defendant
it must first be determined whether Defendant has had sufficient
minimum contacts with Pennsylvania. It must be determined whether
Defendant's contacts have a relationship to the underlying claim.
Jarzynka v. St. Thomas Univ. Sch. of Law, 323 F. Supp. 2d 660,
663 (W.D. Pa. 2004); see also World-Wide, 444 U.S. at 299.
Once it has been decided that Plaintiff's claims arise out of, or
are related to Defendant's contacts, it must then be determined
whether "the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport
with [traditional notions of] fair play and substantial justice." Burger King
Corp. v. Redzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 466 (1985).
1. The non-resident defendant must have sufficient minimum
contacts with the forum state.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a
court from exercising personal jurisdiction over a non-resident
defendant unless the defendant has certain minimum contacts with
the forum state. International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316. There
must 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."
Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958). The touchstone of
the minimum contacts analysis is "whether the defendant has
purposefully directed its activity toward the forum state." AMP
Inc. v. Methode Electronics Inc., 823 F. Supp. 259, 262 (M.D.
Pa. 1993); see Burger King Corp, 471 U.S. at 475-76. "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." World-Wide, 444 U.S. at 297.
Although Defendant is a Maryland corporation and the parties'
business relationship originated outside Pennsylvania,
Defendant's conduct in connection with Pennsylvania is such that
it should reasonably anticipate being haled into a court of the
Commonwealth. Agents of Defendant, including Plaintiff, solicited
sales from Pennsylvania customers. (Doc. No. 10, part 2). In
addition, Defendant sold and shipped merchandise to Pennsylvania
purchasers. Id. The direct shipment of Defendant's products to the Commonwealth demonstrates more than just a mere
likelihood that its products would find their way there.
World-Wide, 444 U.S. at 297. As a result, it was reasonably
foreseeable that Defendant's conduct could lead to it being haled
into a court of the Commonwealth. Id. Defendant has
deliberately engaged in activities in the Commonwealth and thus,
has purposefully availed itself of the benefit and privilege of
conducting such activities in Pennsylvania. Accordingly,
Defendant has established sufficient minimum contacts with
2. The claim must be one which arises out of or results from
the defendant's forum-related activities.
Specific jurisdiction is invoked when the cause of action
arises from the defendant's forum related activities. In order to
exercise specific jurisdiction there must not only be minimum
contacts with the forum state, there must also be a relationship
between those contacts and the underlying claim. Jarzynka, 323
F.2Supp. 2d at 663; see also World-Wide, 444 U.S. at 299
(due process requires the claim "to stem from a constitutionally
cognizable contact with [the forum] State"); Reliance Steel
Products v. Watson, Ess, Marshall and Enggas, 675 F.2d 587 (3d
Cir. 1987) (allegation of negligent legal advice not related to
defendant's only contact with forum, defendant's listing in a
legal directory circulated in the forum state).
The contacts relied upon by Plaintiff are sufficient to confer
specific jurisdiction. Plaintiff has alleged a breach of contract
and a violation of the Maryland Payment Collection Law, MD. CODE
ANN., Labor and Employment §§ 3-501 et seq. (Doc. No. 1).
Although Plaintiff's claims are centered around the employment
relationship with Defendant, part of the claims are related to
and arise from sales to Pennsylvania companies solicited by
Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 10, part 2). For example, Plaintiff disputes the commissions owed to him for sales he solicited from
Berks Regional Tennis Association, which is located in Reading,
Pennsylvania. (Docs. No. 23 and 10, part 2). Similarly, Plaintiff
disputes the commissions owed to him for sales he solicited from
United States Tennis Association Middle States Section, which is
located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Docs. No. 23 and 10,
part 2). Although not all of Plaintiff's claims deal with
Pennsylvania purchasers, Plaintiff has adequately demonstrated
that his cause of action arises out of and relates to his dealing
with the Defendant, as its agent, in Pennsylvania.
3. Exercise of jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant must
Personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant may only be
asserted when it is reasonable and fair to require the defendant
to conduct his defense there. "Due process requirements are
satisfied when in personam jurisdiction is asserted over a
non-resident corporate defendant that 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.'" Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 (quoting
International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316).
In making a fairness determination, this Court must consider:
(1) the burden on the defendant; (2) the forum State's interest
in adjudicating the dispute; (3) the plaintiff's interest in
obtaining convenient and effective relief; (4) the interstate
judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient
resolution of controversies; and (5) the shared interest of the
several states in furthering fundamental substantive social
policies. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477. This determination is
made at the Court's discretion. Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli &
Assoc., 149 F.3d 197, 201 (3d Cir. 1998). It is well settled that it is the defendant's burden to "present a
compelling case that the presence of some other considerations
would render jurisdiction unreasonable." Grand Entertainment
Group, Ltd. v. Star Media Sales, 988 F.2d 476, 483 (3d Cir.
1993) (quoting Burger King, at 477).
The burden of defending this action in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania is slight, and the Plaintiff has a significant
interest in pursuing his claims where he resides. In addition,
Defendant purposefully engaged in activities that had an effect
in the Commonwealth, which has a strong interest in protecting
its citizens from the kind of conduct alleged in the Complaint.
Defendant has not argued that any other state has a stronger
interest in this litigation. Accordingly, the notions of fair
play and substantial justice are not offended by a requirement
that the Defendant defend itself in a Pennsylvania forum.
The Court concludes that Defendant purposefully engaged in
activities with Pennsylvania and that Defendant could have
reasonably expected to be haled into a court of the Commonwealth
in an action related to its sales therein. Therefore, the Court
will exercise specific jurisdiction over Defendant, and
Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction
will be denied.
B. GENERAL JURISDICTION
For this Court to exercise general jurisdiction it must
determine whether Defendant maintained "continuous and
substantial" affiliations with the forum State. International
Shoe, 326 U.S. 310. A district court can assert jurisdiction
over a non-resident defendant even when the cause of action does
not arise out of, or relate to the defendant's activities in the
forum state; however, the plaintiff must show "significantly more
contacts with the forum state than the mere minimum contacts
required for specific jurisdiction." Modern Mailers, Inc.,
844 F. Supp. 1048, 1051 (E.D. Pa. 1994). If the court determines that there are sufficient minimum contacts with the
forum state, the court may then determine "whether the assertion
of personal jurisdiction accords with the notions of fair play
and substantial justice." Mesalic v. Fiberfloat Corp.,
897 F.2d 696, 701 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting International Shoe,
326 U.S. at 316).
However, given this Court's conclusion that it may exercise
specific jurisdiction over Defendant, this Court will not reach
the issue of general jurisdiction. Defendant's motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction will be denied on the grounds
stated in § IV(A), supra.
A civil suit in federal court based on diversity may be brought
only in certain districts. Venue is appropriate in any district:
(1) where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the
same State; (2) in which a substantial part of the events or
omissions giving rise to the claim occurred; or (3) in which any
defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the
action is commenced, if there is no district in which the action
may otherwise be brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a) (2004). However, a
corporate defendant is deemed to reside "in any judicial district
in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction."
28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).
For the reasons discussed above, this Court has concluded that
it may exercise specific jurisdiction over Defendant. As a
result, this Court also finds that venue is proper under
28 U.S.C. § 1391. Thus, Defendant's motion to dismiss for improper
venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406 will also be denied.
Based on the foregoing, this Court finds that Defendant
established sufficient contacts with Pennsylvania and that Plaintiff's claims arise from those
contacts as to give this Court specific jurisdiction over
Defendant. Therefore, Defendant's motions to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction and improper venue will be denied.
AND NOW, this 15th day of September, 2005, upon
consideration of Defendant's motions and all responsive papers
thereto, for the above reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) (Doc. No. 3) is
2. Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) (Doc. No. 3) is
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