PROCEDURE-JURISDICTION-LONG ARM

December 15th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Procedure

PROCEDURE-JURISDICTION-LONG ARM- Merino v. Repak, B.V., 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 482 (December 6, 2022) (McCaffery, J.) The lower court had concluded that Repak, Individually, had sufficient minimum contacts with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to justify the court’s exercise of specific jurisdiction.  Repak was the manufacturer of a machine sold by its distributor, Reiser.  While using the meat-packing machine, appellee Merino suffered a substantial injury to her left index finger.  A complaint was filed against Repak and Reiser.  The question was whether there was sufficient minimum contact in Pennsylvania.  The court found such sufficient minimum contacts existed.  Jurisdictional case law does not require a traditional principal/agent relationship in order to consider whether one company’s actions may be attributed to another company.  Rather, the focus is on whether the foreign defendant “purposely availed” itself of the protections of the forum.  A defendant may be subject to jurisdiction without entering the forum.  For example, where manufacturers or distributors seek to serve a given state’s market.  The principal inquiry in cases of this sort is whether the defendant’s activities manifest an intention to submit to the power of a sovereign.  In other words, a defendant must purposely avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.  Sometimes a defendant does so by sending its goods rather than its agents.  The defendant’s transmission of goods permits the exercise of jurisdiction only where the defendant can be said to have targeted the forum; as a general rule, it was not enough that defendant might have predicted that its goods will reach the forum state.  Repak, through its distributor, Reiser, had a focused connection to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The distribution agreement appointed Reiser as the sole distributor in the United States.  Regardless of the companies’ separate corporate structures, the trial court concluded that they were “so closely tethered together in their business dealings that Reiser is Repak’s American agent, if not subsidiary.” Id. Clearly, the court’s fleeting reference to Reiser as Repak’s “subsidiary” was a matter of semantics; it was not intended to constitute a finding that Repak and Reiser had a parent/subsidiary relationship. Therefore, we conclude the trial court’s assertion of specific personal jurisdiction over Repak satisfied due process concerns, and Repak is entitled to no relief. It is true that Appellee’s claims against Reiser would survive if Repak were dismissed from the case. Nevertheless, Appellee’s only recourse against Repak — the manufacturer and designer of the machine — would be to file suit in the Netherlands.  Moreover, Repak concedes that a trial court may consider the interests of the plaintiff in “obtaining convenient and effective relief” once — as here — minimum contacts have been established. See Hammons, 240 A.3d at 556 n.23 (under the “reasonable and fair” prong of the three-part test, courts should consider, inter alia, “the burden on the defendant [and] the plaintiff’s interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief”) (emphasis added), citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528 (1985). Thus, the trial court consideration of Appellee’s interests was not an error of law or abuse of discretion.  Therefore, we conclude the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion in overruling Repak’s preliminary objections to Appellee’s complaint, and determining that its exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Repak in Pennsylvania does not offend either Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute or the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.  Order affirmed.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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