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Ruben v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 17, 2013

Elinore J. RUBEN
v.
UNITED STATES of America, et al.

Page 359

Neil Shukovsky, Philadelphia, PA, for Elinore J. Ruben.

Thomas F. Johnson, U.S. Attorney's Office, Philadelphia, PA, for United States of America.

Gregory J. Kelley, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Beyer Blinder Belle, PC.

MEMORANDUM

BARTLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Elinore J. Ruben, a citizen of Pennsylvania, has sued defendants United States of America and Beyer Blinder Belle, P.C. a/k/a Beyer Blinder Bell Architects & Planners LLP (" BBB" ), related architectural firms, [1] for damages she sustained as a result of an allegedly hazardous condition at the museum at the Ellis Island National Monument in New York City. Plaintiff claims she suffered serious injuries as a result of the negligence and recklessness of defendants when she fell over a protruding metal doorstop during a visit to the museum. According to the amended complaint, BBB designed the placement of the doorstop in issue.

The defendant BBB has moved to dismiss the amended complaint on the grounds that the Pennsylvania statute of repose has abolished the claims against it and that this court does not have personal jurisdiction over it.

I.

We first turn to the issue of whether the court has personal jurisdiction over BBB. The court permitted the parties a limited period of discovery on this question.

It is undisputed that BBB has its place of business in New York City. While it has no office, bank accounts, or property in Pennsylvania, it does perform architectural services for clients in the Commonwealth. It is currently engaged in projects at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, and the former Schmidt's Brewery in Philadelphia. Its total revenue derived from projects in Pennsylvania from 2008 until early 2013 amounts to $1,921,056 while its total revenue earned in other states during the same period totals $179,449,973.

The Pennsylvania long arm statute provides for jurisdiction " to the fullest extent

Page 360

allowed under the Constitution of the United States." See 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 5322(b). Under the Due Process Clause, we may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant only to the extent that it has " certain minimum contacts ... such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (internal quotation omitted). The defendant's contacts with the forum state must be such that it " should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980).

A federal district court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based on either general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. " General jurisdiction exists when a defendant has maintained systematic and continuous contacts with the forum state." Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir.2007) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984)). See also, 42 Pa. Const. Stat. Ann. § 5301(a)(2). Specific jurisdiction attaches when the claim arises from or relates to conduct purposely directed at the forum state. Marten, 499 ...


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