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Sciortino v. Jarden, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2019

HENRY SCIORTINO, Plaintiff,
v.
JARDEN, INC. a/k/a NEWELL BRANDS a/k/a PURE FISHING, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION

          SLOMSKY, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case arises from a products liability action originally filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County by Plaintiff Henry Sciortino (“Plaintiff” or “Sciortino”) against Defendant Pure Fishing, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Pure Fishing”). Sciortino sued Pure Fishing because it allegedly manufactured and sold a defective pair of Wader boots that caused him injury after a fall. Wader boots are waterproof shoes often used for hunting and other outdoor activities.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 81), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 82), and Defendant's Reply (Doc. No. 83). The parties dispute whether Pennsylvania courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over Pure Fishing. The company was incorporated in Iowa and maintains a principal place of business in South Carolina. It has an office in Philadelphia, is registered to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and has received tax credits from Pennsylvania for work in research and development.

         Defendant contends that a Pennsylvania court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over it because this would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014), the United States Supreme Court held that under the Due Process Clause, a court can only exercise personal jurisdiction over a company if it is “at home” in the state. Defendant claims that the facts show it is not “at home” in Pennsylvania. Plaintiff argues to the contrary that regardless of Defendant's contact with Pennsylvania, it has consented to personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in this state.

         For reasons that follow, the Court is persuaded that it is proper to exercise personal jurisdiction over Pure Fishing based on its consent by registering to do business in Pennsylvania. Consequently, the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 81) will be denied.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Jurisdiction

         Henry Sciortino is a Pennsylvania resident. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 2.) Pure Fishing is a company that designs, manufacturers and sells Wader boots. (Id. ¶ 28.) In the United States, Pure Fishing conducts business in the following four cities: Columbia, South Carolina, Sprite Lake, Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 81-1 ¶ 23.) Its principal place of business is Columbia, South Carolina. (Doc. No. 81-1 ¶ 8.) The company is incorporated in the state of Iowa. (Id. ¶ 9.) About forty-eight Pure Fishing employees work at its Philadelphia facility, which is located at 3028 W. Hunting Park Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19132-1121. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 6; Doc. No. 81-1 ¶ 13.)[1] At this location, Pure Fishing manufactures and repairs fishing reels sold under PENN's brand, through a license agreement it has with PENN. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 14; Doc. No. 81-1 ¶ 20.)

         On January 5, 2009, Pure Fishing filed an Application for a Certificate of Authority with the Corporation Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State, which authorized it to conduct business in Pennsylvania as a foreign corporation. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 14; Doc. No. 80 at 30-31; Doc. No. 82 at 16-17.) On March 28, 2016, it filed a Statement of Merger, which gave notice that it acquired a company named Hardy North America, Ltd., also a Pennsylvania corporation. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 10; Doc. No. 80 at 32-35.) Both of these documents list an entity named “C.T. Corporation System” as Pure Fishing's Commercial Registered Office Provider[2] for acceptance of service in Philadelphia County. (See Doc. No. 80 at 31, 33.)

         Beginning in 2009, Pure Fishing submitted applications to receive tax credits from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for participation in a research and development tax program. (Id. ¶ 22.) In each application for these credits, Pure Fishing identified itself as a corporate citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to qualify for tax credits. (Id. ¶ 21; see also 061 Pa. Code § 9.17.) Pursuant to a subpoena issued during jurisdictional discovery in this case, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue sent Plaintiff copies of the three most recently filed applications.[3] (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 23.) They show that from 2014 to 2016, Pure Fishing received these tax credits from the Pennsylvania Department of State. (Doc. No. 80 ¶ 20; Doc. No. 81 at 12.) Specifically, Pure Fishing received $5, 872 for work it did in the area of Research and Development in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2014; $1, 530 in 2015; and $8, 711 in 2016. (Doc. No. 80 ¶¶ 24-26.)

         B. History of the Wader Boots and Sciortino's Injury

         In the 1850's Pure Fishing's predecessor, a company named Hodgman, introduced Wader boots into the marketplace. (Id. ¶ 27.) Presently, Pure Fishing owns the Hodgman brand. (Id. ¶ 7.) Pure Fishing designed, manufactured and sold the particular model involved in this dispute, known as Chest Waders, which Plaintiff purchased on January 22, 2004.[4] (Id. ¶ 28; Doc. No. 81-1 ¶ 20.) With few exceptions, he wore the boots only twice a year from 2004 to 2015. They were worn during hunting seasons. (Doc. No. 80 ¶¶ 37, 38.)

         On January 6, 2015, Sciortino went on a hunting trip to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 40.) That day, it snowed and the weather conditions were cold, rainy and windy. (Id. ¶ 41.) At approximately 5:30 a.m., Sciortino began walking through mud, water, slush and underbrush. (Id. ¶ 44.) After walking about fifty feet, he fell to the ground and hit his leg and head on rocks. (Id. ¶ 45.) He then lost consciousness for some time. (Id. ¶ 46.) When he attempted to get up, his foot twisted, and he fell again. (Id.) This happened at least two more times. (Id. ¶ 47.) After the repeated falls, Sciortino found that the sole of his Wader boots had come completely detached. (Id. ¶ 48.) He also found that the lower soles of the boots were detached from their rubber upper-waterproof base. (Id. ¶ 60.) The midsole, which serves as an intermediate and integral component of the sole construction was made of polymeric material. (Id.) Sciortino alleges that all of these factors contributed to his injuries.

         As a result of his fall, Sciortino sustained many injuries and underwent surgery. (Id. ¶¶ 67, 69-70.) Since the incident, he has reached maximum recovery but has not been able to achieve full mobility, maneuverability or to eliminate the pain. (Id. ¶ 74.)

         C. Procedural History

         Sciortino originally filed this lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1 at 6.) On February 8, 2017, Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, [5] the diversity of citizenship jurisdiction statute. (Doc. No. 1.)

         On March 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 11.) He then filed a Second Amended Complaint on March 23, 2017. (Doc. No. 15.) Pure Fishing moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over it. (Doc. No. 20.) On July 7, 2017, the Court a hearing on the Motion, and at the hearing, authorized the parties to conduct jurisdictional discovery. (Doc. No. 41.)

         On October 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. Nos. 42, 44.) Pure Fishing moved to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint, again arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over it. (Doc. No. 46.) On January 17, 2018, the Court held another hearing on Pure Fishing's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 51.) In light of the arguments made by counsel, the Court authorized the parties to engage in further jurisdictional discovery and afforded them the opportunity to file supplemental memoranda addressing their findings. (Doc. No. 52.) On August 15, 2018, the parties completed jurisdictional discovery and Pure Fishing filed a supplemental memorandum in support of its Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 63.) Plaintiff did not file a supplemental memorandum on that date.

         Instead, on September 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed another document titled “Third Amended Complaint.”[6] Because a Third Amended Complaint had already been filed, the Court scheduled a telephone conference to address to discrepancy. (Doc. No. 68.) During the conference, the Court indicated that it would permit additional discovery on the issue of whether Pure Fishing is registered to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and also granted leave for Plaintiff to file a Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 73.) Plaintiff filed the Fourth Amended Complaint on November 26, 2018. (Doc. No. 80.) Jurisdictional discovery is now closed.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 81.) Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 82), and Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. No. 83). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) provides for dismissal of an action when the Court does not have personal jurisdiction over a defendant. “Once challenged, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction.” O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., Ltd., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted). To show personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff may rely on the allegations in the complaint, affidavits, or other evidence. Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). “Where the court chooses not to conduct an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only demonstrate a prima facie case of jurisdiction to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Carteret Sav. Bank v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 142 n.1 (3d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). In deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court must “accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Id.

         IV. ...


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