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Richard Basciano, D/B/A 303 West 42nd Street Realty v. L&R Auto Parks

December 19, 2011

RICHARD BASCIANO, D/B/A 303 WEST 42ND STREET REALTY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
L&R AUTO PARKS, INC.; ENTERPRISE PARKING COMPANY, LLC, T/A FIVE STAR PARKING, A CALIFORNIA GENERAL PARTNERSHIP; AND FIVE STAR PARKING, A CALIFORNIA GENERAL PARTNERSHIP,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of a lease agreement ("Lease" or "Lease Agreement") between plaintiff and defendant Five Star Parking ("Five Star" or "Partnership").*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that Five Star failed to pay the full amount of the rent due under the Lease and sued Five Star and its general partners, L&R Auto Parks ("L&R") and Enterprise Park ing Company, LLC ("Enterprise"), for the past-due amounts.

Presently before the Court is Defendants L and R Auto Parks, Inc.'s and Enterprise Parking Company LLC's Motion to Dismiss. L&R and Enterprise argue that the Court may not assert personal jurisdiction over them because they lack minimum contacts with Pennsylvania. The Court concludes that it has personal jurisdiction over L&R and Enterprise and denies their Motion to Dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 11, 1997, Five Star entered into the Lease Agreement with Dimeling and Schreiber Garage Partnership, the owner of the property located at 618-634 Market Street in Philadelphia, to lease the property for use as a public parking garage. (Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) On September 22, 1997, plaintiff purchased the property and was assigned the Lease. (Id. ¶ 5.) After the Lease expired in 2002, plaintiff and Five Star renewed it on multiple occasions, the last renewal ending on December 31, 2009. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff claims that Five Star failed to pay the full amount of the rent due under the Lease and the extensions thereto and has sued to recover the remaining balance, plus late fees, attorneys' fees, and costs.

Five Star is a general partnership formed under the laws of California with business addresses at 515 South Flower Street, Suite 3200, Los Angeles, California, and 618-634 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 2.) L&R is a California corporation that maintains a place of business at 515 South Flower Street, Suite 3200, Los Angeles, California. (Id. ¶ 3.) Enterprise is a California limited liability company with the same address as L&R. (Id.) L&R and Enterprise are the general partners of Five Star. (Id.)

Plaintiff has presented evidence regarding L&R's and Enterprise's individual contacts with Pennsylvania relating to the Lease and this case. This evidence includes, inter alia, leases that L&R signed for unrelated properties, insurance contracts that L&R entered into, and communications by L&R and Enterprise officers to plaintiff's representatives. However, because the Court concludes that it may assert jurisdiction over L&R and Enterprise solely by virtue of their status as general partners of Five Star, the Court need not review the facts that would otherwise be relevant to a personal jurisdiction analysis.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "authorizes personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the extent permissible under the laws of the state where the district court sits." Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs., 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute permits courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants "to the constitutional limits of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id.; 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5322(b) (West 2011).

Once a defendant has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the burden rests on the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists in the forum state. Imo Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert AG, 155 F.3d 254, 257 (3d Cir. 1998). When considering the motion, the court construes any factual averments and resolves all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996).

A court may obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant in one of two ways. First, the court has general jurisdiction if the defendant has engaged in "systematic and continuous" contacts with the forum state and the exercise of jurisdiction is "reasonable." Helicopteros Nacionales De Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984). Second, the court has specific jurisdiction if "the defendant purposefully establishe[s] 'minimum contacts' in the forum." BP Chems. Ltd. v. Formosa Chem. & Fibre Corp., 229 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474 (1985)).

IV. DISCUSSION

The parties agree that the Partnership, Five Star, is subject to specific jurisdiction in this Court.*fn2 The dispute concerns whether the Court has specific jurisdiction over Five Star's general partners. Plaintiff argues that specific jurisdiction over the Partnership confers specific jurisdiction over the general partners automatically. Defendants, relying on the Ninth Circuit's decision in Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357 (1990), argue that the Court must find that each partner individually has sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to exercise specific jurisdiction over the partners. Following well-reasoned decisions from the Third Circuit and around the country, the Court concludes that it has specific jurisdiction over defendants L&R and Enterprise pursuant to their status as general ...


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