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Burt Hill, Inc. v. Hassan

January 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Bissoon United States Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Bissoon


Defendant Ibrahim Altahan's Motion (Doc. 55) to Dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction will be denied.

As referenced in two prior Orders, Defendant Altahan initiated suit against Plaintiff in Haydar K. Hassan, et al., v. Burt Hill, Inc., et al., GD 09-016288 (Allegh. Cty. Ct. Comm. Pls. 2009) ("Hassan"). See Order dated Nov. 18, 2009 (Doc. 30) at 1; Order dated Dec. 4, 2009 (Doc. 40) at 10 n.6. In his state court action, filed before the commencement of this federal lawsuit, Defendant Altahan alleged that jurisdiction was proper under Pennsylvania's Long-Arm Statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5301, et seq. See Compl. in Hassan at ¶ 13.

In Hassan, Defendant Altahan alleged, among other things, that Burt Hill breached employment agreement(s) by forcing him to resign and by failing to pay him due compensation. See generally Compl. in Hassan at ¶¶ 112, 138; see also id. at Counts I, II & IV. Many of the operative facts alleged in the instant lawsuit formed the bases for Defendant's requests for relief in Hassan. Compare, e.g., Compl. in Hassan at ¶¶ 87, 91, 95, 106, 126, 128 & 138 (addressing termination of Defendant Altahan's employment, potential sale of Burt Hill's operations to Defendants, creation of BH Global, Plaintiff's "raid" on Burt Hill's Dubai office, post-"raid" settlement discussions between parties, and Plaintiff's filing of criminal charges against Defendants in Dubai) with, e.g., Pl.'s Compl. (Doc. 1) at ¶¶ 14, 43, 46, 68 & 81 (alleging facts regarding Defendant's termination, possible sale of Burt Hill's Dubai operations to Defendants, Plaintiff's seizing control of Burt Hill's Dubai operations, and post-seizure agreement between parties).

In Hassan, Defendant Altahan also alleged violations of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law ("PWPCL"), and a series of claims presumably sounding in Pennsylvania common law. See, e.g., Compl. in Hassan at Count V (PWPCL); Count VI (wrongful termination); Count VII (defamation); and Count IX (intentional infliction of emotional distress); see also, e.g., Counts I, II, III & IV (breach of contract and promissory estoppel).

"Many courts have concluded that personal jurisdiction may be based upon implied consent or waiver when a non-resident files a claim in the forum state that involves the same transaction." Neuralstem, Inc. v. StemCells, Inc., 573 F. Supp.2d 888, 897 (D. Md. 2008) (collecting cases); see also Bel-Ray Co., Inc. v. Chemrite (Pty) Ltd., 181 F.3d 435, 443 (3d Cir. 1999) ("where a party seeks affirmative relief from a court, it normally submits itself to the jurisdiction of the court with respect to the adjudication of claims arising from the same subject matter") (citation omitted). The fact that Defendant filed suit in state court is of no consequence. See Marron v. Whitney Group, -- F. Supp.2d --, 2009 WL 3300265, *2 & n.9 (D. Mass. Oct. 15, 2009) ("the courts of a forum . . . include those [state and] federal courts located within the state for purposes of personal jurisdiction," and, "therefore, [it is] irrelevant to the court's analysis that [defendant] initiated suit in . . . state court, rather than federal court") (citations omitted).

It also is axiomatic that personal jurisdiction lies where a defendant "purposefully avails [him]self" of a forum to "invok[e] the benefits and protections of its laws." See Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474-75 (1985) (citation to quoted source omitted, emphasis added). Defendant Altahan undoubtedly has done so here, having independently and affirmatively sought relief under a Pennsylvania statute and a series of common law claims in Pennsylvania state court. See discussion supra (highlighting Defendant's claims under PWPCL and state common law).

Perhaps recognizing the fundamental deficiencies of his personal jurisdiction challenge, Defendant Altahan claims to have "voluntarily discontinued his participation" in Hassan "as of December 31, 2009." See Def.'s Br. (Doc. 56) at 5. Defendant's abandonment of his state court claims, only two business days before the filing of his Motion to Dismiss, has no proper bearing on the Court's jurisdictional analysis. Even assuming Defendant's withdrawal from Hassan was not, as it appears, an unseemly attempt to manipulate this Court's exercise of jurisdiction,*fn1

Defendant has sworn to his state court allegations under penalty of perjury. See Verification of I. Altahan, attached to Compl. in Hassan (swearing, under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4904, that contents of his pleadings were "true and correct to the best of [his] knowledge, information and belief").

Defendant has availed himself to the jurisdiction of this forum, and his Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 55) is DENIED.*fn2

IT IS SO ...

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