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Ricardo Rivera v. Bally's Park Place

July 12, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


Plaintiff Ricardo Rivera ("Plaintiff" or "Rivera") filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against Defendant Bally's Park Place ("Defendant" or "Bally's"), alleging negligent conduct. Defendant removed the case here, invoking diversity jurisdiction. Two days later, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. For the reasons that follow, I find that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant.

I. Background

On June 7, 2009, Rivera, a resident of Chester County, Pennsylvania, slipped and fell in a puddle of water in a public restroom on property owned by Bally's, a casino incorporated in New Jersey with its principal place of business in Atlantic City. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2, 6. Rivera alleges in the Complaint that he sustained serious, potentially permanent personal injuries, including head, spinal, and torso damage as well as lacerations and contusions, as a result of Defendant's negligence. Compl. ¶¶ 8--9.

II. Legal Standard

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court "must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff." Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). If no evidentiary hearing is held on the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007). A plaintiff satisfies this prima facie standard by presenting evidence sufficient to defeat a motion for directed verdict-specific facts that, if true, would permit the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant. Cable/Home Commc'n Corp. v. Network Prods., Inc., 902 F.2d 829, 855 (11th Cir. 1990); Action Mfg. Co. v. Simon Wrecking Co., 375 F. Supp. 2d 411, 418--19 (E.D. Pa. 2005).

III. Discussion

In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant alleges that it lacks sufficient contacts with Pennsylvania and that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over it would therefore be impermissible. Defendant requests that this case either be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction or transferred to New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406.

In response, Rivera asserts that this Court may permissibly exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant both because Defendant has sufficient contacts with the state and because Defendant invoked this Court's jurisdiction by filing the Notice of Removal. Pl.'s Answer to Def.'s Mot. Dismiss or Transfer 3--4. Rivera does not give specific details about the business conducted by Defendant in Pennsylvania that calls for the exercise of personal jurisdiction by this Court but says only that, if he is "given the opportunity, [he] will prove that [Defendant] regularly conducts business in Philadelphia by soliciting for and bringing customers from Philadelphia to its business in Atlantic City, New Jersey." Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Dismiss or Transfer 1--2.

I will grant Defendant's Motion because Rivera has not adequately responded to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss-Rivera has failed to submit any evidence supporting this Court's exercise of either general or specific personal jurisdiction in response to Defendant's jurisdictional challenge. In addition, even if Rivera had submitted competent supporting evidence, the contacts he alleges are insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction over Defendant.

A. Plaintiff Has Not Provided Evidentiary Support in Response to the Motion

When a defendant challenges a court's personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff must then establish its existence. O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 316. The plaintiff may not "rely on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's . . . motion to dismiss" for lack of personal jurisdiction; instead, the plaintiff must present "competent evidence," such as sworn affidavits, to support its jurisdictional allegations. Action Mfg., 375 F. Supp. 2d at 418. The plaintiff must respond to the defendant's motion with "actual proofs"; "affidavits which parrot and do no more than restate [the] plaintiff's allegations . . . do not end the inquiry." Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66, n.9 (3d Cir. 1984).

In this case, Rivera did not present any such "competent evidence" or "actual proofs" to sustain his allegation that Defendant conducts business in Pennsylvania. Rivera insists that he will prove the existence of personal jurisdiction "[i]f given the opportunity," but his response to Defendant's Motion was his opportunity. Rivera did not respond with any reasonable particularity to Defendant's assertion that it does not conduct business in Pennsylvania-Rivera insisted only that Defendant "regularly does business in Philadelphia County." Only once did Rivera provide specific information about Defendant's contacts with Pennsylvania-that Bally's solicited new customers and transported them from Pennsylvania to New Jersey-and even then Rivera did not provide any supporting evidence. ...

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