United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
Introduction The above captioned matter is a product
liability suit arising out of a motor vehicle accident in
which Plaintiff, Katherine Antonini, was injured because of
an alleged design flaw or flaws in her 2005 Ford Explorer.
(Doc. 14). Defendant, Ford Motor Company, has moved to
dismiss, arguing that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction
over Defendant. (Doc. 10). For the reasons that follow the
Court will deny Defendant's Motion.
Procedural Background and Factual Allegations
a resident of Milford, Pennsylvania, was the owner of a 2005
Ford Explorer. (Doc. 14 at ¶ 1, 68). This particular
Ford Explorer was assembled in Louisville, Kentucky, and sold
by Defendant to an independent Ford dealership in Monroe, New
York. (Doc. 10-2 at ¶ 5). In 2005, the dealership sold
the car to an owner in New York. (Doc. 10-3). Then, in 2012,
the owner appears to have sold the car to the Healey Brothers
Automotive Group in New York.
(Id.). Thereafter, Plaintiff purchased the
vehicle and brought it to Pennsylvania. (Id.).
March 18, 2016, Plaintiff was driving her 2005 Ford Explorer
in Pike County, Pennsylvania, when it was involved in an
accident. (Doc. 14 at ¶¶ 68, 73). Plaintiff, who
was wearing her seatbelt, claims that she sustained serious
injuries as a result of the crash because the vehicle, which
was designed, manufactured, and marketed by Defendant, was
not reasonably crashworthy. (Id. at¶¶
69-71, 74-75, 95). On October 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed her
single count complaint in this Court. (Doc. 1). Defendant
then filed its Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the vehicle at
issue was not manufactured or sold in Pennsylvania and was
not brought into Pennsylvania through any action of
Defendant. (Doc. 10). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Amended
Complaint, (Doc. 14), along with its Brief in Opposition to
Defendant's Motion, (Doc. 13). The issue is now ripe for
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, a defendant may move to
dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). "Once challenged, the plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction."
O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312,
316 (3d Cir. 2007). "However, when the court does not
hold an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss, the
plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal
jurisdiction and the plaintiff is entitled to have its
allegations taken as true and all factual disputes drawn in
its favor." Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith,
384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004); see also Toys
"R" Us, Inc. v. Step Two, S.A., 318 F.3d 446,
457 (3d Cir. 2003) ("It is well established that in
deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, a
court is required to accept the plaintiff's allegations
as true, and is to construe disputed facts in favor of the
plaintiff."). "Of course, by accepting a plaintiffs
facts as true when a motion to dismiss is originally made, a
court is not precluded from revisiting the issue if it
appears that the facts alleged to support jurisdiction are in
dispute." Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan,
954 F.2d 141, 142 n.1 (3d Cir. 1992).
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment limits the
power of a state court to render a valid personal judgment
against a nonresident defendant." World-Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, AAA U.S. 286, 291, 100
S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). "Due process requires
that the defendant be given adequate notice of the suit and
be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court."
Id. (internal citations omitted). In the context of
federal courts, it is the Fifth Amendment that imposes
restrictions on the exercise of personal jurisdiction.
See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of
Cal., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1783-84, 198 L.Ed.2d 395 (2017).
However, "[f]ederal courts ordinarily follow state law
in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over
persons." Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746,
753, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)).
In Pennsylvania, the state's long-arm statute provides
that personal jurisdiction extends "to the fullest
extent allowed under the Constitution of the United
States." 42 Pa. C.S.A. 5322(b). Accordingly, this Court
may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant if doing
so does not violate the Due Process Clause. Pennzoil
Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs., Inc., 149 F.3d 197,
200 (3d Cir. 1998).
are two types of personal jurisdiction: "general
jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction."
O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 317. "A court with
general jurisdiction may hear any claim against that
defendant, even if all the incidents underlying the claim
occurred in a different State." Bristol-Myers Squibb
Co., 137 S.Ct. at 1780. "But 'only a limited
set of affiliations with a forum will render a defendant
amenable to' general jurisdiction in that State."
Id. (quoting Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 760).
"Specific jurisdiction is very different. In order for a
state court to exercise specific jurisdiction, 'the
suit must 'aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the
defendant's contacts with the forum.'"
Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Daimler
AG, 134 S.Ct. at 754). Here, the only arguments that
Plaintiff has raised concern whether this Court has specific
Third Circuit has articulated a three-part test to determine
whether a district court can exercise specific personal
jurisdiction over a defendant. See O'Connor, 496
F.3d at 317. "First, the defendant must have
'purposefully directed [its] activities' at the
forum." Id. (alteration in original) (quoting
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472,
105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985)). "Second, the
litigation must 'arise out of or relate to' at least
one of those activities." Id. (quoting
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall,
466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984)).
"And third, if the prior two requirements are met, a
court may consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction
otherwise 'comport[s] with "fair play and
substantial justice."'" Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting Burger King, 471
U.S. at 476). The first two steps address "whether
a defendant has the requisite minimum contacts with the
forum, " D'Jamoos ex rel. Estate of Weingeroff
v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir.
2009), and the third step concerns whether exercising
jurisdiction is reasonable under the circumstances.
applied to Defendant, the first prong of this test is easily
met. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint outlines a variety of
ways in which Defendant purposefully directed its activities
at Pennsylvania. For example, the Amended Complaint alleges
that Defendant is registered to do business in Pennsylvania,
maintains offices and employees in the state, and sells its
products throughout Pennsylvania. (Doc. 14 at¶¶ 5,
7, 12, 14). Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has
spent millions of dollars advertising Ford products in
Pennsylvania and that these advertisements were directly
targeted at Pennsylvania residents. (Id. at
¶¶ 25-26). This is more than sufficient to satisfy
the purposeful contact prong.
second prong focuses on the relatedness of the
defendant's in-state contacts and the litigation.
Although the Supreme Court has yet to articulate the scope of
this requirement, lower courts have established a variety of
tests. Gentex Corp. v. Abbott, 978 F.Supp.2d 391,
399-400 (M.D. Pa. 2013). In the Third Circuit, the
relatedness "analysis begins with but-for causation, but
does not end there." Colvin v. Van Wormer Resorts,
Inc., 417 F.App'x 183, 187 (3d Cir. 2011). This
Circuit has recognized that "[t]he animating principle
behind the relatedness requirement is the notion of a tacit
quid pro quo that makes litigation in the forum reasonably
foreseeable." O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 322.
Consequently, "[b]ut-for causation cannot be the sole
measure of relatedness because it is vastly overinclusive in
its calculation of a defendant's reciprocal
obligations." Id. Instead, "specific
jurisdiction requires a closer and more direct causal
connection than that provided by the but-for test."
Id. at 323.
The relatedness requirement's function is to maintain
balance in this reciprocal exchange. In order to do so, it
must keep the jurisdictional exposure that results from a
contact closely tailored to that contact's accompanying
substantive obligations. The causal connection can be
somewhat looser than the tort concept of proximate causation,
but it must nonetheless be intimate ...