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Patterson v. Olivet International

December 2, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Pending before the Court is DEFENDANT LYDIA AND JERRY MOON'S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION, Docket entry number 8, with brief in support (Doc. # 9), filed by Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon. Plaintiff filed a reply in opposition (Doc. # 10), with brief in support (Doc. # 11). The motion is ripe for disposition.

Statement of the Case

Plaintiff initiated this diversity action on August 17, 2009, by filing a Complaint which alleged counts of breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, and a violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act, 43 Pa..C.S.A. § 260.2(A) against Defendant Olivet International, Inc. See generally Doc. # 1 at Counts I - IV. Defendant Olivet International, Inc. answered the Complaint on October 19, 2009. Doc. # 5. In addition to the claims against Defendant Olivet International, Plaintiff claims two of the officers of Olivet International - Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon, likewise violated the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law ("WPCL"). More specifically in Count V, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon exercised authority regarding the payment of wages, benefits, and compensation, and further that they failed to make payment of the wages and benefits which were due Plaintiff. Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 47 - 53. The Wage Payment and Collection Law, so Plaintiff contends, makes Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon civilly liable under 43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq.

Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon have moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) due to the fact that "[t]heir only contact with Plaintiff was through a handful of e-mails, phone calls and face-to-face meetings in California or other States." Doc. # 9.

Standard of Review

For the purpose of a 12(b)(2) motion, the Court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff. Carteret Savings Bank v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 192), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 817 (1992). However, when challenged, the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction rests upon the plaintiff. Grand Entertainment Group v. Star Media Sales, 988 F.2d 476, 482 (3d Cir. 1993). "Plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence." Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 67 n.9 (3rd Cir. 1984).*fn1 The plaintiff must offer evidence that establishes with reasonable particularity the existence of sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state to support jurisdiction. See Carteret, 954 F.2d at 146; Provident Nat. Bank v. California Fed. Sav. & Loan Assoc., 819 F.2d 434 (3d Cir. 1987).

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e), a federal district court may assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident to the extent allowed by the law of the state in which it sits. See Remick v. Manfredy, 238 F.3d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 2001), Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, N.A. v. DiVeronica Bros., Inc., 983 F.2d 551, 554 (3d Cir. 1993); see also, Stevens v. Meaut, 264 F.Supp.2d 226, 229 (E.D.Pa 2003). In order to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, a federal court sitting in diversity must undertake a two-step inquiry. First, the court must apply the relevant state long-arm statute to see if it permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction; then, the court must apply the precepts of the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. IMO Industries, Inc. v. Kiekert AG, 155 F.3d 254, 258-59 (3d Cir. 1998). The Court's first step is satisfied here. Pennsylvania's long-arm statute provides that a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents "to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States." 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 5322(b). The statute also permits jurisdiction over a non-resident if the non-resident has "[c]aused harm or tortious injury by an act or omission in this Commonwealth" or "[c]aus[ed] any harm or tortious injury in this Commonwealth by an act or omission outside this Commonwealth." § 5322(a)(3), (4).

The reach of the Pennsylvania long-arm statute is "coextensive" with the due process clause. North Penn Gas v. Corning Natural Gas Co., 897 F.2d 687, 690 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 847 (1990). The due process clause permits the court to assert personal jurisdictional over a nonresident defendant who has "certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of [a] suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). The Supreme Court has stated that "minimum contacts must have a basis in '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.'" Asahi Metal Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102, 109, 107 S.Ct. 1026 (1987) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174 (1985)).

When the district court does not "'hold an evidentiary hearing . . ., the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction and the plaintiff is entitled to have its allegations taken as true and all factual disputes drawn in its favor'." O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., Ltd., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004)).


A. General Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. General jurisdiction is implicated when the claim arises from the defendant's non-forum-related activities. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 411 n.9 (1984). In such a case, the plaintiff "must show significantly more than mere minimum contacts." Provident Nat'l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987). To assert general jurisdiction, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's contacts with the forum state were "continuous and substantial." Id.; Gehling v. St. George's Sch. of Med., 773 F.2d 539, 541 (3d Cir. 1985). The threshold for establishing general jurisdiction is very high and requires a showing of "extensive and pervasive" facts demonstrating connections with the forum state. Reliance Steel Prods. Co. v. Watson, Ess. Marshall & Enggas, 675 F.2d 587, 589 (3d Cir. 1982).

Defendants Lydia Moon and Jerry Moon have each submitted an affidavit attesting to the extent of their respective contacts with Pennsylvania, that they are residents of and are domiciled in Taiwan; neither has ever been to Pennsylvania for personal or business reasons; neither owns any property or real estate in Pennsylvania; when they travel to the United States, they move from city to city and state to state; neither maintains any bank accounts in Pennsylvania; and that neither met personally with Plaintiff between 2005 and 2009 in Pennsylvania. Doc. # 9 at Ex. A and B. Defendant Jerry Moon further attests to the fact that he "had no involvement in hiring Mr. Patterson or ...

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