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Kearney v. Good Start Genetics, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 8, 2017

JAMES KEARNEY Plaintiff
v.
GOOD START GENETICS, INC. Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, U.S.D.C. J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, or alternatively motion to transfer venue filed by Defendant Good Start Genetics, Inc. (“Defendant”), pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rules”) 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3), [ECF 10], and the response in opposition thereto filed by Plaintiff James Kearney (“Plaintiff”). [ECF 11]. The grounds for Defendant's motion rest primarily on the argument that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant because Defendant is not “at home” in Pennsylvania, as required by the seminal Supreme Court decision, Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), and because Plaintiff's employment-based claims do not arise out of any of Defendant's limited contacts with Pennsylvania.

         The issues presented in the motion have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.[1]After careful consideration, for the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is granted.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         The following is a brief summary of the facts relevant to the issue of whether this Court has jurisdiction over Defendant. Plaintiff is a resident and citizen of Pennsylvania. Defendant is a corporation existing under the law of the State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in Massachusetts. Defendant is a molecular diagnostics company that provides genetic screening for inherited disorders. According to a screenshot of Defendant's website (a copy of which Plaintiff attached to his opposition), Defendant maintains licenses and certifications to provide clinical laboratory services to clients in seven states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

         Sometime prior to May 5, 2014, Plaintiff submitted an application for employment with Defendant through Defendant's Human Resources Department in Massachusetts. Prior to being hired, Plaintiff was interviewed in Massachusetts. On May 5, 2014, Defendant hired Plaintiff as a Director of Managed Care. Subsequently, Plaintiff was promoted to Senior Director of Managed Care and OB/GYN Sales.

         During Plaintiff's employment with Defendant, Plaintiff primarily conducted work from his home in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. As an employee based in Pennsylvania, Plaintiff paid Pennsylvania wage taxes. Plaintiff rarely traveled to Defendant's headquarters in Massachusetts and did not conduct business at any of Defendant's physical locations. During his employment, Plaintiff's manager was located in Massachusetts. All of the decisions regarding the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment were made by officers and employees in Massachusetts. At the time of his termination, Plaintiff was offered a separation agreement in connection with a reduction in force that provided for the application of Massachusetts law. Throughout the course of his employment, Defendant regularly communicated with Plaintiff via mail, email, and phone calls to Plaintiff's residence. Defendant conducted at least one of Plaintiff's performance reviews over the phone while Plaintiff was in Pennsylvania.

         During his employment, Plaintiff and two of Defendant's sales representatives conducted multiple in-person meetings with physicians throughout the greater Philadelphia area, resulting in Defendant contracting with at least twenty-four physicians' offices within Pennsylvania. In addition, Plaintiff personally led the negotiation of an agreement with a large healthcare plan provider based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, which, according to Plaintiff, likely resulted in a significant influx of business for Defendant within Pennsylvania. Defendant also employed at least one other sales representative who was based out of his home in Pennsylvania; had two dedicated sales representatives who covered territory within Pennsylvania and solicited business from physicians' offices and hospitals located in Pennsylvania; and directed marketing efforts to Pennsylvania through the use of Facebook and other social media platforms. During Plaintiff's tenure, Defendant held at least one “screening day” program in Pennsylvania to screen individuals for potential genetic disorders. Defendant did not regularly conduct meetings at its Massachusetts location, but rather held corporate meetings at different locations throughout the country. On three occasions over the course of Plaintiff's employment, Defendant held its senior staff meetings and business review meetings in Pennsylvania.

         Plaintiff's employment with Defendant was terminated on September 26, 2016. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he was terminated because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §621, et seq. He also asserts that Defendant violated the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §260.1, et seq. by failing to pay him bonuses earned during his employment. Defendant has moved to dismiss these claims under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.[3]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), a defendant may move to dismiss a claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Once a defendant has raised this jurisdictional defense, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to present a prima facie case establishing jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant in the forum. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002); see also Miller Yacht Sales, Inc., v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004) (“[W]hen 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.”). A plaintiff has the burden to show, “with reasonable particularity, ” enough contact between the defendant and the forum to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction by the forum state. Mellon Bank v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted); see also Action Mfg. Co. v. Simon Wrecking Co., 375 F.Supp.2d 411, 418 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (“In order to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must present specific facts that would allow the court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendant.”).

         In determining the existence of personal jurisdiction, courts “must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368. Once the plaintiff's “allegations are contradicted by an opposing affidavit . . . [he or she] must present similar evidence in support of personal jurisdiction.” In re Chocolate Confectionary Antitrust Litig., 602 F.Supp.2d 538, 556 (M.D. Pa. 2009). To counter opposing affidavits, “[p]laintiffs may not repose upon their pleadings in this manner. Rather, they must counter defendant['s] affidavits with contrary evidence in support of purposeful availment jurisdiction.” Id. at 559. To that end, “[t]he 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.'” Lionti v. Dipna, Inc., 2017 WL 2779576, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 27, 2017) (quoting Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66, n.9 (3d Cir. 1984)); see also Lehigh Gas Wholesale, LLC v. LAP Petro., LLC, 2015 WL 1312213, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 23, 2015) (“Plaintiff carries the ...


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