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Negron v. Oxford Airport Technical Services

June 11, 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. By Order of May 6, 2009, the court denied defendant Clyde Machines, Inc.'s ("Clyde") motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The matter comes before the court on Clyde's motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, certification of an interlocutory appeal. 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.

The court's Opinion of May 6, 2009 (paper no. 27) set forth the facts relevant to Clyde's challenge to personal jurisdiction; they will not be fully restated in this Opinion. In short, the court held Clyde subject to personal jurisdiction because: (1) the allegedly defective product entered Pennsylvania through the stream of commerce; (2) Clyde's direct sale of thousands of products to businesses located in Pennsylvania showed an intent to serve the Pennsylvania market; (3) Clyde was aware its products were marketed in Pennsylvania in the regular and anticipated course of business; and (4) the volume, value and hazardous nature of the products that Clyde shipped into Pennsylvania favored the exercise of personal jurisdiction. (Paper no. 27.)

On May 20, 2009, Clyde moved for reconsideration on grounds that D'Jamoos v. Pilatus Aircraft LTD, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 10268 (3d Cir. May 14, 2009), compels a different result. In the alternative, Clyde moves for certification of an interlocutory appeal. Plaintiffs did not file a response, but has opposed Clyde's jurisdictional challenge throughout these proceedings.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Reconsideration

Reconsideration serves to correct manifest errors of law or fact. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906 (3rd Cir. 1985). A court should grant a motion for reconsideration only if there is: 1) newly available evidence; 2) an intervening change in controlling law; or 3) a need to correct a clear error of fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Haymond v. Lundy, 205 F. Supp. 2d 390, 395 (E.D. Pa. 2002). Motions for reconsideration should not be used to reargue or relitigate matters already decided.

Clyde argues that D'Jamoos represents an intervening change in controlling law. In D'Jamoos, defendant Pilatus, an airplane manufacturer based in Switzerland, designed and manufactured an airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania. The court described the chain of events between the plane's manufacture in Switzerland and subsequent crash in Pennsylvania:

In 1999, Pilatus manufactured the aircraft involved in the Pennsylvania crash at its Stans, Switzerland, facilities. Thereafter Pilatus sold the aircraft to a French buyer. Its owner then resold the plane to a Swiss company (not Pilatus), which resold it to a Massachusetts company. The Massachusetts company brought the plane to the United States in the spring of 2003 and sold it to J2W Aviation, LLC, a Rhode Island company which based the aircraft in Rhode Island. Pilatus was not involved in any of the aircraft's resales, and its only contact with the plane after its original sale was some maintenance of it in Switzerland at the request of its then owners. Pilatus, however, had no contact with the aircraft after it left Europe.

D'Jamoos, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 10268 at *6. Pilatus sold a substantial quantity of airplanes to buyers in the United States through its subsidiary in Colorado,*fn1 but Pilatus itself had few contacts with Pennsylvania. "Pilatus's direct contacts within Pennsylvania, then, are limited to: (1) sending two employees to Pennsylvania to view displays at a potential supplier, and (2) purchasing $1,030,139 in goods or services from suppliers in Pennsylvania during the five-year period preceding this litigation." Id. at *22.

Affirming the District Court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals held: (1) plaintiffs' claims did not arise out of or relate to at least one of Pilatus's purposeful contacts with Pennsylvania; and (2) the subject aircraft did not enter Pennsylvania through the stream of commerce. Id. at *23, 25. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to transfer the action to Colorado because Pilatus was subject to general jurisdiction there. "We are satisfied that the record demonstrates that appellants have established a prima facie basis for a conclusion that a Colorado court may exercise general jurisdiction over Pilatus predicated on its direct contacts within Colorado or, alternatively, on the conduct of [Pilatus's subsidiary] as its agent." Id. at *32.*fn2

D'Jamoos does not compel a different result in this action because, unlike D'Jamoos: (1) the allegedly defective product entered Pennsylvania through the stream of commerce; (2) Clyde's direct sales to the forum demonstrate an intent to serve the Pennsylvania market; and (3) Clyde was aware that its customers transported its products into Pennsylvania even if they were initially delivered elsewhere. While Clyde delivered the allegedly defective product to Northwest in Washington, D.C., Clyde knew: (1) Northwest had a presence in Pennsylvania; ...


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