United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. MARIANI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Introduction & Procedural Background
James and Maria Burnside, initiated this litigation after Mr.
Burnside was allegedly injured when the bobtail truck he was
working on began leaking propane and caught
fire. Plaintiffs' Complaint raises claims
for product liability, strict liability, negligence, and
breach of warranty against a number of parties who designed,
marketed, sold, repaired, and/or inspected the truck, propane
tank, or propane tank's safety valve. (Doc. 1).
Presently before the Court is Defendant Peterbilt Motors
Company's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 26). Within the
Motion, Defendant Peterbilt asserts that (1) the Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over Defendant Peterbilt and (2)
Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, the Court
will grant the Motion in part, deny it in part, dismiss the
claims against Defendant Peterbilt for lack of personal
jurisdiction, allow Plaintiffs' a period of time for
jurisdictional discovery, and allow Plaintiffs' the
opportunity to amend their Complaint.
21, 2017, Mr. Burnside was allegedly injured in Avoca,
Pennsylvania, when the bobtail truck he was working on began
leaking propane and caught fire. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 10,
15). According to Plaintiffs, "Defendant Peterbilt
designed, marketed, sold, supplied and/or distributed the
subject product, the bobtail truck and its component parts
which caught fire." (Id. at ¶ 11).
Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant Peterbilt placed the
truck and component parts "into the stream of
commerce." (Id. at ¶ 17). According to an
affidavit submitted by Defendant Peterbilt in connection with
its Motion, the subject truck was sold by Peterbilt of
Connecticut to a purchaser located in Colorado and was then
delivered to Canada. (Doc. 26-2 at ¶¶ 8, 10-11).
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."); Eurofins Pharma U.S. Holdings v.
BioAlliance Pharma SA, 623 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 2010)
(same). "Of course, by accepting a plaintiff's 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).
Peterbilt first asserts that Plaintiffs have failed to
establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. (Doc.
26-1 at 6). In response, Plaintiffs have submitted no
relevant evidence on their behalf. Further, neither party has
requested a hearing on the Motion. Thus, the Court will
consider the allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint in
analyzing the question of whether the Court can assert
personal jurisdiction over Defendant Peterbilt. See
Miller Yacht Sales, 384 F.3d at 97.
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, 444 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." Sandy Lane
Hotel, 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, Plaintiffs only argue that
the Court has specific personal jurisdiction over Defendant
Peterbilt; they advance no argument that general jurisdiction
Third Circuit has articulated a three-part test to determine
whether a district court can exercise specific personal
jurisdiction over a defendant. See Sandy Lane Hotel,
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
argue that the first Sandy Lane Hotel prong is met
because the truck that caused the injury "was designed,
marketed, sold, supplied and/or distributed by Defendant
Peterbilt and ultimately arrived in Pennsylvania in the
possession of [Mr. Burnside]'s employer." (Doc. 32-1
at 7). These assertions, however, do not explain how
Defendant Peterbilt purposefully directed any of its
activities at Pennsylvania. While the Court does not doubt
Plaintiffs' statement that "[m]aterials sent into
Pennsylvania provide some evidence of purposeful availment of
the forum," (id.), Plaintiffs' Complaint
fails to allege that Defendant Peterbilt sent any materials
into Pennsylvania. Instead, Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges
only that a truck that Defendant Peterbilt designed,
marketed, sold, and distributed ended up in Pennsylvania. The
pleading, however, is devoid of any allegations that
Defendant Peterbilt played any part in directing the truck,
or any other materials for that matter, into Pennsylvania.
Nor does Plaintiffs make any other assertions as to how
Defendant Peterbilt has purposefully directed any of its
activities at Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Court finds that
Plaintiffs have failed to plead that Defendant Peterbilt
purposefully directed its activities at Pennsylvania. As
such, Plaintiffs cannot establish that Defendant Peterbilt
has the required minimum contacts with Pennsylvania under the
test articulated in Sandy Lane Hotel.
this conclusion does not end the Court's analysis.
Although not an altogether independent inquiry from the test
articulated in Sandy Lane Hotel, courts have
sometimes found that a defendant has the requisite minimum
contacts with a forum under the "stream of commerce
theory." Under this formulation of the rule, courts
"find a basis for personal jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant, often a manufacturer or distributor,
which has injected its goods into the forum state indirectly
via the so-called 'stream of commerce.'"
D'Jamoos, 566 F.3d at 104-05. In Asahi Metal
Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of Cal.,480 U.S. 102, 107
S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987), the Supreme Court attempted
to outline the contours of when it is appropriate for a court
to exercise personal ...