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Bomberger v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 12, 2018

TINA BOMBERGER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          TUCKER, J.

         Defendant, American Airlines, Inc. asks this Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint or, in the alternative, transfer this matter to the United Stated District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania because: (1) this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant; (2) this Court is an improper venue; and (3) this Court is an inconvenient forum. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will transfer this matter to the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On June 16, 2016, 65 year-old Plaintiff Tina Bomberger suffered a “subcapital fracture of her right hip” when Defendant's employee attempted to transport Plaintiff between terminals at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Pls.' Br. Resp. Def.'s Mot. 2-3, Doc. 7.) Plaintiffs Dennis and Tina Bomberger, customers of Defendant American Airlines, were traveling from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Phoenix, Arizona. After boarding Defendant's plane in Harrisburg, Plaintiffs flew to Charlotte where Plaintiffs were scheduled to board a connecting flight to Phoenix. Plaintiffs were transported between terminals by one of Defendant's employees using a golf cart. As Tina Bomberger was taking a step off of the cart, Defendant's employee began driving the cart away, causing Tina Bomberger to fall to the ground. Despite her injuries, Tina Bomberger was able to board the connecting flight to Phoenix. Upon her arrival in Phoenix, Tina Bomberger was transported to a hospital where she underwent surgery on her right hip.

         On November 24, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant action seeking to recover damages for Tina Bomberger's injuries and Dennis Bomberger's loss of consortium. On February 5, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Because the Court finds that personal jurisdiction is lacking in this forum, the Court will transfer the instant action to the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631. Accordingly, the Court will not address Defendant's arguments regarding improper venue and forum non conveniens.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e), a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant “to the extent permissible under the law of the state where the district court sits.” Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli, 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322, authorizes the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the constitutional limits of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In other words, under Pennsylvania's long-arm statute, the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant as long as it is constitutional. Id.

         “[T]he plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the facts that establish personal jurisdiction . . .” Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). When determining whether personal jurisdiction may be asserted over a non-resident defendant, courts within the Third Circuit follow a two-step process. Gehling v. St. George's Sch. of Med., Ltd., 773 F.2d 539, 541 (3d Cir. 1985). The first step in the analysis is to determine whether the cause of action arises from the defendant's forum or non-forum related activities. Id.

         If the cause of action arises from the defendant's forum related activities, a court is said to have “specific personal jurisdiction” over the defendant. Courts within the Third Circuit conduct a three-part inquiry when determining whether specific personal jurisdiction exists. O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 317 (3d Cir. 2007). First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant “purposefully directed its activities at the forum. Second, the litigation must arise out of or relate to at least one of those activities.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). If the first two requirements are met, “a court may consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction otherwise comports with fair play and substantial justice.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).

         If the claim arises from the defendant's non-forum related activities, the second step in the analysis is to determine whether general personal jurisdiction exists. That is, whether the defendant's affiliations with Pennsylvania were “so continuous and systematic as to render [the defendant] essentially at home in the forum state.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011) (“Goodyear Dunlop”). Prior to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 122 (2014) (“Daimler”), defendants were understood to be subject to general jurisdiction where they were “doing business” by having “continuous and systematic general business contacts” with the forum state. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415-16 (1984). However, in Daimler, the Supreme Court rejected this standard. 571 U.S. at 138 (“Plaintiffs would have us . . . approve the exercise of general jurisdiction in every State in which a corporation engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business. That formulation, we hold, is unacceptably grasping.”) Instead, the Court suggested that the touchstone of the general personal jurisdiction inquiry is whether the defendant can be considered “at home” in the forum state. 571 U.S. at 122.

         The typical forums in which a corporate defendant is at home are the corporation's place of incorporation and its principal place of business. BNSF Ry. v. Tyrrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549, 1558 (2017). However, the exercise of general personal jurisdiction is not limited to these forums. Id. There may be exceptional cases where a corporate defendant's operations in another forum “may be so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State.” Id. (quoting Daimler, 571 U.S. at 139 n.19 (2014)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court finds that both specific and general personal jurisdiction over Defendant are lacking in this case.

         A. The Court Lacks Specific Personal ...


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