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Flynn v. Hovensa, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 3, 2014

EDWARD R. FLYNN and KAREN FLYNN, Plaintiffs,
v.
HOVENSA, LLC, HESS CORP., HESS OIL VIRGIN ISLANDS CORP., and PDVSA, V.I. INC. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction filed by Defendants Hovensa, Hess Corporation ("Hess"), Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation ("HOVIC"), and PDVSA, V.I. Inc. (ECF No. 10). In response, Plaintiffs filed an omnibus motion requesting that the Court: (1) permit limited jurisdictional discovery; (2) stay Defendants' motion to dismiss; and (3) refer the matter to a magistrate judge for mediation. (ECF No. 13). For the reasons explained below, this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendants and will therefore transfer this case to the United States District Court of the Virgin Islands.

II. Background

A. Facts

This case arises from a personal injury sustained by Plaintiff Edward Flynn while he was patrolling the premises of Defendant Hovensa's oil refinery in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 8-9). Edward-an independent subcontractor-alleges that, on March 13, 2012, he fell down a flight of stairs at the Hovensa facility and sustained serious injury to his lower left leg. ( Id. ¶ 10). Edward contends that the accident occurred in a poorly lit area of the facility and that he was not given a flashlight even after requesting one. ( Id. ¶¶ 10-14). Edward asserts a negligence claim against the four Defendants. ( Id. ¶ 34). Plaintiff Karen Flynn asserts a loss of consortium claim for the injury sustained by her husband, Edward. ( Id. ¶ 37).

B. Procedural Background

Defendants Hovensa, Hess, HOVIC, and PDVSA filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction on May 1, 2014. (ECF No. 10). Defendants attached as exhibits to their motion affidavits from officials at each of the Defendant companies. (ECF Nos. 10-3, 10-4, 10-5, and 10-6). Plaintiffs did not file a response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, but instead filed an omnibus motion on May 15, 2014, requesting that the Court: (1) permit limited discovery on the issue of jurisdiction; (2) stay Defendants' motion to dismiss; and (3) refer the matter to a magistrate judge for mediation. (ECF No. 13).

The Court will construe this omnibus motion as including a motion to transfer venue. ( See id. ¶ 15). Plaintiffs contend, in relevant part, that if the Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction, it should transfer the case to the United States District Court of the Virgin Islands instead of dismissing the case. ( Id. ). Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiffs' omnibus motion, explaining that Defendants Hovensa, HOVIC, and PDVSA "will not oppose the Plaintiffs' requested transfer to the United States District Court for the Virgin Islands, " but that Defendant Hess "opposes any disposition other than absolute dismissal." (ECF No. 14, ¶ 15).

III. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows a party to seek dismissal of a complaint or any portion of a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(2) motion, "a court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and draw in the plaintiff's favor all reasonable inferences supported by the well-pleaded factual allegations." Arrington v. Colortyme, Inc., 972 F.Supp.2d 733, 739 (W.D. Pa. 2013) (citing Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 151 n.1 (3d Cir. 1992)). The court need not limit the scope of its review to the pleadings and instead must consider affidavits and other competent evidence submitted by the parties. Patterson by Patterson v. F.B.I., 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir. 1990); Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984). Once the defendant raises a question of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction over the defendant. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004); Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009).

IV. Discussion

A district court sitting in Pennsylvania has personal jurisdiction over the parties to the extent provided under Pennsylvania law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). The Pennsylvania long-arm statute permits jurisdiction "to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322. Therefore, the test for determining whether personal jurisdiction exists is whether, under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the defendant has "certain minimum contacts with [Pennsylvania] 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 (1945) (internal quotation omitted).

A court can obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant through either general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1984). Specific personal jurisdiction arises when the plaintiff's "claim is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum." Mellon Bank (East) PSFS Nat. Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1221 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Dollar Sav. Bank v. First Sec. Bank, 746 F.2d 208, 211 (3d Cir. 1984)). General jurisdiction is found where a corporation's "affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic' as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State." Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 761 (2014) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011)). A corporate defendant is "at home" where it is incorporated and where it has its principal place of business. Goodyear, 131 S.Ct. at 2854. A corporation's principal place of business is its "nerve center." Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 92-93 ...


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