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Lionti v. Dipna, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2017

DIPNA, INC., et al., Defendants.



         On April 5, 2016, Philip Lionti, a resident of Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, was injured at a Days Inn in Wilmington, Delaware. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 15, ECF No. 1, Ex. A.) Lionti alleges that while he was taking a shower in his hotel room, the bathroom ceiling collapsed on him, causing him to slip and fall. (Id. ¶ 15.) He contends he sustained serious and potentially permanent personal injuries as a result of the accident. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         Lionti sued Dipna, Inc., Neil Shah, Chapman Hospitality d/b/a Ramada-Inn Newark, and Hersha Hospitality Trust for negligence in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on December 29, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 2-6.) He asserts that Hersha is a Pennsylvania Corporation that regularly conducts business in Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 5.) Though the Complaint alleges that Dipna and Chapman, both corporations, and Shah, an individual, are Delaware residents with Delaware addresses, Lionti contends they “regularly and consistently conduct[] business within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” (Id. ¶¶ 2-4.) His Complaint further alleges that the four Defendants “owned and possessed” and “had under their care, responsibility, direction, supervision, control and maintenance the premises” where he was injured. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.)

         On April 4, 2017, the parties stipulated to Hersha's dismissal because “it had no connection with [the other] Defendants or the premises in question.” (ECF No. 1, Ex. B; ECF No. 2, ¶ 22.) Dipna, Chapman and Shah then removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction and filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. (ECF No. 1; Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 2.) In the motion, Defendants allege that they lack sufficient contacts with Pennsylvania and that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them would therefore be impermissible. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) They contend that they do not regularly conduct business in Pennsylvania, operate any property in Pennsylvania or have any employees in Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Lionti never responded to the motion.


         In reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a court “must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). If no evidentiary hearing is held on the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007). A plaintiff satisfies this prima facie standard by presenting facts that, if true, would permit the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant. Cable/Home Commc'n Corp. v. Network Prods., Inc., 902 F.2d 829, 855 (11th Cir. 1990); Action Mfg. Co. v. Simon Wrecking Co., 375 F.Supp.2d 411, 418-19 (E.D. Pa. 2005).

         However, when a defendant challenges a court's personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff must then establish its existence. O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 316. The plaintiff meets this burden by “establishing with reasonable particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state.” Provident Nat'l Bank v. California Fed. Sav. & Loan Assoc., 819 F.2d 434 (3d Cir. 1987) (citing Gehling v. St. George's Sch. of Medicine, Ltd., 773 F.2d 539 (3rd Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff may not “rely on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's . . . motion to dismiss” for lack of personal jurisdiction; instead, the plaintiff must present “competent evidence, ” such as sworn affidavits, to support its jurisdictional allegations. Action Mfg., 375 F.Supp.2d at 418. The plaintiff must respond to the defendant's motion with “actual proofs”; “affidavits which parrot and do no more than restate [the] plaintiff's allegations . . . do not end the inquiry.” Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66, n.9 (3d Cir. 1984).



         As an initial matter, the Defendants did not waive their ability to contest the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) by removing the case. See Rivera v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 798 F.Supp.2d 611, 616 (E.D. Pa. 2011). While a defendant can waive his objection to personal jurisdiction by failing to raise it in a timely manner, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(1), removal to federal court does not constitute such a waiver. See Arizona v. Manypenny, 451 U.S. 232, 242 n.17 (1981) (“[I]f the state court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter or the parties, the federal court acquires none upon removal.”); Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. v. Peaslee, 88 F.3d 152, 157 n.4 (2d Cir. 1996) (“Removal does not waive any Rule 12(b) defenses.”); Harrison v. L.P. Rock Corp., No. 99-5886, 2000 WL 19257, at *1 n.1 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 2000) (“Removal to federal court does not constitute waiver to object to this court's . . . exercise of personal jurisdiction.”).


         A court's ability to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a defendant turns on whether the plaintiff can demonstrate that the defendant maintained continuous and systematic contacts with and carried on a “substantial portion” of its business within the forum state. D'Jamoos v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 107-08 (3d Cir. 2009). These contacts must be “significantly more than mere minimum contacts”-the plaintiff must show that the defendant's contacts with the state were so “central to the conduct of its business” that jurisdiction may be fairly exercised even over claims not arising from those contacts. Provident Nat'l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437-38.

         The Third Circuit Court of Appeals employs a three-part analysis for determining if specific personal jurisdiction exists: (1) the defendant “purposefully directed [its] activities” at Pennsylvania, (2) the litigation “arise[s] out of or relate[s] to” at least one of the defendant's activities in Pennsylvania, and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction comports with traditional ...

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