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Negron v. Oxford Airport Technical Services

May 6, 2009

DORIS R. NEGRON, AS ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF WILFRED NEGRON, SR., AND DORIS R. NEGRON, INDIVIDUALLY,
v.
OXFORD AIRPORT TECHNICAL SERVICES, CLYDE MACHINES, INC. AND DIVERSIFIED INSPECTIONS/ITL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norma L. Shapiro, J.

OPINION

Doris Negron, individually and as administrator of her husband's estate, filed this wrongful death and survival action in state court for claims arising from the death of her husband, Wilfred Negron. The action was properly removed to federal court. The matter comes before the court on defendant Clyde Machines, Inc.'s ("Clyde") motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.The motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Wilfred Negron worked for Northwest Airlines ("Northwest") at Philadelphia International Airport. On May 25, 2006, plaintiffs allege Mr. Negron fell from a towable staircase while performing grooming activities on an airplane. He died soon after his fall. Plaintiffs claim the accident was caused in part by a dangerous defect in the staircase, purchased by Northwest from Clyde in September, 2000. Clyde, a manufacturer of non-motorized aviation ground support equipment, admits it sold the staircase to Northwest and delivered it to Washington National Airport at Northwest's request, but disclaims knowledge of how or when Northwest relocated the staircase to Philadelphia International Airport. Def.'s Br., Ex. B (paper no. 26).

Clyde, a Minnesota corporation, maintains its sole place of business in Glenwood, Minnesota. Challenging the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction, Clyde avers: (1) it is not licensed to do business in Pennsylvania; (2) it maintains no office or place of business in Pennsylvania; (3) it has no employees in Pennsylvania; (4) it does not solicit business in or direct its advertising toward Pennsylvania; (5) it has no assets in Pennsylvania; (6) it does not maintain any bank accounts with financial institutions in Pennsylvania; and (7) for the last ten years, sales to businesses or persons located in Pennsylvania accounted for less than one third of one percent of its total sales. Def.'s Br., Ex. C (paper no. 10).

Plaintiffs, arguing that Clyde's contacts with Pennsylvaniaare more substantial, requested jurisdictional discovery; the court granted plaintiffs' request. Order of Feb. 26, 2009 (paper no. 16).Discovery revealed that Clyde shipped approximately 2,277 products into Pennsylvania from April 15, 1998 to December 28, 2008. Pl.'s Br., Ex. D (paper no. 25). Clyde contends the volume of products shipped to Pennsylvania is insignificant relative to its total sales. Over the last decade, Clyde's Pennsylvania sales comprised an average of 0.2% of its total revenue:

YearTotal SalesPennsylvania Sales 1998$7,050,079$35,675 1999$6,969,265$2,842 2000$6,262,341$3,333 2001$6,393,228$152 2002$3,665,701$176 2003$3,882,202$7,846 2004$4,008,409$21,695 2005$4,919,176$22,396 2006$5,291,421$15,679 2007$6,447,336$6,296 2008$7,560,493$6,770

Def.'s Br., Ex. H (paper no. 26). Of the products it shipped to Pennsylvania, Clyde claims most were replacement parts, such as bushings, nuts, bolts, pins and casters, rather than ground support equipment, such as maintenance stands, pallet trailers, slave pallets, tow bars and stationary racks. Clyde argues the jurisdictional inquiry should focus on its sales of ground support equipment because it derives only a small share of its revenues from the sale of replacement parts. Clyde characterizes its sales to Pennsylvania as too "de minimis, insubstantial, and infrequent" to subject it to personal jurisdiction in this forum. Def.'s Supp. Br. at 13 (paper no. 26).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

This action, originally filed in state court, was removed by the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers Local 1776 ("IAMAW") under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction). IAMAW argued that certain of plaintiffs' state law claims were preempted by and not cognizable under federal labor law. The court granted IAMAW's motion to dismiss, but retained subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity jurisdiction) because there is complete diversity among the remaining parties and there is the requisite amount in controversy. Order of Feb. 18, 2009 (paper no. 14.).

B. Personal Jurisdiction

After a defendant files a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the burden shifts to the plaintiff to come forward with evidence of sufficient contacts between the defendant and forum state. Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, N.A. v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir.1992). The plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof through affidavits or admissible evidence; it may not rely on the pleadings alone. Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 67 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984).

A federal district court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant to the extent authorized by the law of the state in which the court sits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k). See Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007). The Pennsylvania long-arm statute permits the exercise of jurisdiction "to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States" and "based on the most minimum contact with [the] Commonwealth allowed under the Constitution of the United States," 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง ...


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