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Rosso-Gana v. McDonalds Restaurant

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 28, 2015

KATHLEEN ROSSO-GANA and STEPHEN GANA, Plaintiffs,
v.
MCDONALD’S RESTAURANT and LEWIS FOODS OF 42nd STREET, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

BUCKWALTER, S.J.

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and on Improper Venue. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On November 3, 2012, Plaintiffs Kathleen Rosso-Gana and Stephen Gana-husband and wife and residents of Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania-were purchasing food items from Defendant McDonalds Restaurant (“McDonalds”), a New York business entity located at 220 W. 42nd Street, New York, New York.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 1–3, 7.) McDonalds is owned by Defendant Lewis Foods of 42nd Street, LLC (“Lewis Foods”). (Id. ¶ 4.) While at McDonalds, Plaintiff Ross-Gana slipped and fell on a wet and slippery substance on the steps as she was exiting the restaurant, striking her head on the wall as she tumbled. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiffs originally initiated suit in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, but the court dismissed the case on preliminary objections for lack of personal jurisdiction. Thereafter, on April 17, 2015, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants in this Court setting forth claims of negligence and loss of consortium. Defendants filed the current Motion to Dismiss on May 4, 2015, and Plaintiff responded on May 12, 2015, making this matter ripe for judicial consideration.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) require the court to accept as true the allegations of the pleadings and all reasonable inferences therefrom, and to resolve all factual disputes in favor of the plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2); see also Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). The Rule, however, “does not limit the scope of the court’s review to the face of the pleadings”; rather the court must also consider any affidavits submitted by the parties. Scott v. Lackey, No. Civ.A.02-1586, 2005 WL 2035598, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2005).

Although a defendant has the initial burden of raising the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction, once such a defense is raised, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate facts that suffice to support an exercise of personal jurisdiction. Provident Nat. Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987); Cumberland Truck Equip. Co. v. Detroit Diesel Corp., 401 F.Supp.2d 415, 418 (E.D. Pa. 2005). Plaintiff may do so through affidavits or competent evidence that show sufficient contacts with the forum state. De Lage Landen Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Rasa Floors, LP, No. Civ.A.08-0533, 2008 WL 4822033, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 4, 2008). Such contacts must be established with “reasonable particularity, ” to present a prima facie case. Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat’l Ass’n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Provident, 819 F.2d at 437). If the plaintiff meets this burden, the defendant must then establish the presence of other considerations that would render personal jurisdiction unreasonable. De Lage, 2008 WL 4822033, at *3 (citing Carteret Sav. Bank v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 150 (3d Cir. 1992)).

III. DISCUSSION

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to the extent provided by the law of the state in which the federal court sits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A); see also Martin v. Citizens Fin. Group, Inc., No. Civ.A.10-260, 2010 WL 3239187, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 2010). Pennsylvania law, which governs the present case, necessitates the application of Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 5322. Under this statute, personal jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts over nonresident defendants is permitted “to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States and may be based on the most minimum contact with this Commonwealth allowed under the Constitution of the United States.” 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5322(b); see Mellon Bank, 960 F.2d at 1221 (“The Pennsylvania statute permits the courts of that state to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the constitutional limits of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment.”). Therefore, a court need only inquire whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant would be constitutional under the Due Process Clause. Mellon Bank, 960 F.2d at 1221. Pursuant to such constitutional considerations, physical presence within the forum is not required to establish personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. IMO Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert AG, 155 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 1998). Instead, personal jurisdiction may be based on either a defendant’s general contacts or his specific contacts with the forum. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2001).

“General jurisdiction depends on a defendant having maintained ‘continuous and systematic contacts’ with the forum state.” D’Jamoos ex rel. Weingeroff v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 107 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415–16 (1984)). Proof of such contact requires a showing of “extensive and pervasive” activity in the forum state. See Reliance Steel Prods. Co. v. Watson, Ess, Marshall, & Engass, 675 F.2d 587, 589 (3d Cir. 1982) (quotations omitted). The defendant’s contacts need not be related to the cause of action being litigated. McMullen v. Eur. Adoption Consultants, Inc., 109 F.Supp.2d 417, 418 (W.D. Pa. 2000). If the foreign defendant “maintains ‘continuous and systematic’ contacts with a state, the state has general personal jurisdiction over the party, and the non-resident may be sued in that state on any claim.” Wilmington Fin., Inc. v. Moonis, No. Civ.A.08-2365, 2008 WL 4661033, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2008) (quotations omitted).

In the absence of “continuous and systematic” contacts, a plaintiff may rely on “specific jurisdiction” where the cause of action is related to or arises out of the defendant’s contacts with the forum. IMO Indus., 155 F.3d at 259 (citing Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 n.8). Proper establishment of specific jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause requires satisfaction of a three-part test. Louis A. Grant, Inc. v. Hurricane Equip., Inc., No. Civ.A.07-438, 2008 WL 892152, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 2, 2008). First, the plaintiff needs to show that the defendant has “constitutionally sufficient ‘minimum contacts’ with the forum.” IMO Indus., 155 F.3d at 259 (citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474 (1985)). Second, the plaintiff’s claim must “arise out of or relate to those activities.” Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414. Third, the reviewing court should consider additional factors to ensure that the exercise of jurisdiction otherwise “comport[s] with ‘fair play and substantial justice.’” Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476 (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945)); see also O’Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., Ltd., 496 F.3d 312, 317 (3d Cir. 2007) (enumerating the three elements of specific jurisdiction).

In the present case, Plaintiff does not assert that the Court has general jurisdiction over the Defendants. Rather, he claims that Defendants have minimum contacts with Pennsylvania, from which the present dispute arises, such that this Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over them will not violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Defendants, in turn, respond that they have no contacts with Pennsylvania to constitutionally allow for the extension of personal jurisdiction over them. In an effort to resolve this dispute, the Court now turns to the analysis enumerated by the Supreme Court.

1. Whether Defendants Have Sufficient Minimum Contacts with Pennsylvania to Warrant the Exercise of ...


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