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Eugene Eubanks v. Don Filipovich

December 27, 2012


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


Contending that this court lacks personal jurisdiction, the defendant, Don Filipovich, has moved to dismiss this intentional interference with contractual relations action.*fn1 Filipovich, a California resident, argues that he does not have sufficient contacts with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania nor has he purposefully directed any conduct at Pennsylvania. In response, the plaintiff, Eugene Eubanks, asserts that Filipovich caused harm in Pennsylvania and, therefore, he is subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania based on Pennsylvania's long-arm statute.

We conclude that Eubanks has not met his burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over Filipovich. He has failed to show that Filipovich has sufficient contacts with Pennsylvania that would justify exercising jurisdiction without offending traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. He has proffered no evidence that Filipovich engaged in any conduct directed at Pennsylvania. Therefore, we shall grant the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.*fn2

In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), like one for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), we accept as true the plaintiff's allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). However, unlike Rule 12(b)(6), Rule 12(b)(2) does not limit the scope of review to the face of the pleadings. Id.; Carteret Sav. Bank, F.A. v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 142 & n.1 (3d Cir. 1992). Consideration of affidavits submitted by the parties is appropriate and typically necessary. Patterson by Patterson v. FBI, 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir. 1990); Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3rd Cir. 1984) (holding Rule 12(b)(2) motion "requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, i.e., whether in personam jurisdiction actually lies").

Once a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating facts establishing a basis for the exercise of jurisdiction. D'Jamoos v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir. 2009); O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007). When the parties do not conduct jurisdictional discovery and there is no evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004).

In reviewing the facts, the plaintiff's allegations are accepted as true, and disputed facts are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. Bald assertions and legal conclusions are insufficient. Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)); see also, e.g., Time Share Vacation Club, 735 F.2d at 66 (rejecting plaintiff's "bald, self-serving statement" concerning the defendants' contacts with the forum). The plaintiff must show the existence of sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum. Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368. Thus, to meet his burden, the plaintiff must present "competent evidence" demonstrating that the defendant has the requisite minimal contacts with the forum to warrant the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Miller Yacht, 384 F.3d at 101 n.6 (quoting Patterson, 893 F.2d at 603-04); BP Chems. Ltd. v. Formosa Chem. & Fibre Corp., 229 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 2000).

To establish personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the plaintiff must satisfy two requirements. Eurofins Pharma US Holdings v. BioAlliance Pharma SA, 623 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 2010). First, there must be a statutory basis for exercising jurisdiction in accordance with the law of the forum state. Id. (citing Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009)). Second, the non-resident defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state sufficient to satisfy constitutional due process. Id.

The plaintiff correctly points out that the Pennsylvania long-arm statute supplies a statutory basis for personal jurisdiction over a California defendant. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5301 (West 2012). He relies upon the section that extends jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant who causes "harm or tortious injury in the Commonwealth by an act or omission outside the Commonwealth." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322(a)(4) (West 2012).

The plaintiff still must establish with reasonable particularity that sufficient contacts exist between the defendant and the forum to justify the exercise of jurisdiction. Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368. This showing of minimum contacts must comport with the requirements of the Due Process Clause such that "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" are not offended by requiring the defendant to appear in court in the forum. Provident Nat'l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).*fn3 The nature of these contacts must be such that the defendant should be reasonably able to anticipate being haled into court in the forum state. Provident Nat'l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437 (citing WorldWide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)).

There are two bases for personal jurisdiction, general and specific. The focus of general jurisdiction is on the relationship between the defendant and the forum state, not on the relationship of the claims to the forum. See Mesalic v. Fiberfloat Corp., 897 F.2d 696, 699 (3d Cir. 1990). The specific jurisdiction inquiry considers the relationship of the litigation to the defendant's contacts with the forum. Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368.

Eubanks concedes that there is no basis for exercising general jurisdiction. He relies solely on specific jurisdiction, arguing that Filipovich's Pennsylvania contacts were sufficient under the Pennsylvania long-arm statute.

Specific jurisdiction arises when the cause of action is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum and the injury is related to those contacts. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2001). In other words, specific jurisdiction exists where the plaintiff's claim arises from the defendant's jurisdictional contacts. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984). A single contact may be sufficient where its connection to the forum is substantial. Miller Yacht, 384 F.3d at 96.

Specific jurisdiction lies where: (1) the defendant purposefully directed his conduct at the forum; (2) the cause of action arises out of or relates to that conduct; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is consistent with fair play and substantial justice. O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 317 (citations omitted). Where a defendant, by the nature of his forum-related conduct, could have reasonably anticipated being sued in the forum, he is subject to specific jurisdiction.

The purposeful direction prong of the specific jurisdiction test does not require physical presence in the forum. Nevertheless, it does require deliberate action directed at the forum. The contact must be more than fortuitous or incidental. The defendant must act knowing that his actions will have an effect in the ...

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