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Sung D. Lee, et al v. Super King Sauna Nj

August 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pratter, J.


Plaintiffs Sung and Susie Lee filed this diversity action against Super King Sauna and related entities,*fn1 claiming that Mr. Lee suffered injuries after slipping on a wet floor at Super King Sauna's Palisades Park, New Jersey location. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. The parties do not dispute that the Defendants are all New Jersey corporate entities or individual residents of New Jersey, and, indeed, Plaintiffs allege diversity jurisdiction based on this fact. The Defendants, however, contend that they do not have the minimum contacts with Pennsylvania necessary to allow this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over them.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiffs allege that on August 6, 2009, Mr. Lee was a customer at King Sauna Spa and Fitness in Palisades Park, New Jersey when he slipped and fell on a "liquid substance" and suffered permanent injuries, leaving him "sick, sore, lame, and disordered." See Compl. at ¶¶ 9, 18. Plaintiffs also allege that "a transaction or occurrence out of which the cause of action arose occurred in this judicial district." See Compl. at ¶ 2. The Complaint contains no further reference to any "transaction or occurrence" in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; however, in response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff Susie Lee averred that she purchased a spa package for ten massage treatments after seeing advertisements for Super King Spa in the Korean Newspaper*fn2 which is distributed at Korean Centers and Supermarkets in Philadelphia and which Ms. Lee purchased at the Korean Community Center located at 8th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. See Pls.' Opp., Aff. of Susie Lee, ¶¶ 3-7.

On April 22, 2011, Plaintiffs filed this action, alleging one count of negligence and one count of loss of consortium. Defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2)-(3). Attached to their motion is the affidavit of Yong B. Cho, Vice President of Super King Sauna, which states that Super King Sauna does no business, advertising, or marketing in Pennsylvania. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. B, ¶ 3. Plaintiffs counter with their own affidavit, which states that in the spring/summer of 2009, Super King advertised in the Korean Newspaper which is sold and distributed in Korean communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; that Ms. Lee saw these advertisements and thereafter purchased a spa package; and that Super King maintains a website which allows Pennsylvania residents to purchase spa packages and to communicate with spa representatives. See Pls.' Opp., Aff. of Susie Lee, ¶¶ 3-7, 9-10. Plaintiffs also ask that if the Court finds that personal jurisdiction is lacking, the Court transfer the action to the District of New Jersey rather than dismiss the case. While Defendants admit that the District of New Jersey would be a proper forum for this suit, they have not expressed a view on whether or not the Court should transfer the action should the Court agree that they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in this District.

II. Legal Standard

A. Personal Jurisdiction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e) allows a district court to assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident to the extent allowed by the law of the state in which it sits. See Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 63 (3d Cir. 1984). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute provides that a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants "to the constitutional limits of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Remick v. Manfredy, 238 F.3d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 2001) (interpreting 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 5322(b)).

Due process requires that (1) the defendant have "minimum contacts" with the forum state, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction comports with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Remick, 238 F.3d at 255 (quoting International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). "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.'" Remick, 238 F.3d at 255 (quoting Asahi Metal Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of California, 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985))).

A federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in one of two ways. General personal jurisdiction is appropriate when a cause of action "arises from the defendant's non-forum related activities," and the defendant's contacts with the forum are continuous and systematic. Vetrotex Certainteed Corp. v. Consolidated Fiber Glass Products Co., 75 F.3d 147, 151 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 369 n.1 (3d Cir. 2002) (noting distinction); General Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-416 (1984)). By contrast, specific personal jurisdiction can be invoked when a cause of action arises from the defendant's forum-related activities. Vetrotex, 75 F.3d at 151.

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the allegations of the complaint are taken as true. However, once a jurisdictional defense is raised, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, through affidavits, or competent evidence, sufficient contacts with the forum state to establish personal jurisdiction. See Dayhoff Inc. v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1028 (1996). The plaintiff must establish those contacts with reasonable particularity. See Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1996). Once the plaintiff makes out a prima facie case in support of personal jurisdiction, the burden shifts to the defendant to establish that some other considerations exist which would render exercise of personal jurisdiction unreasonable. See Carteret Sav. Bank v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 150 (3d Cir. 1992).

B. Venue

In a diversity matter, venue is proper only in:

(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants ...

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