Watson v. Baby Trend, Inc., 2024 Pa. Super. LEXIS 6 (January 12, 2024) (Dubow, J.).
Appellants Michael Watson, individually and as estate administrator, appeal from an order entered in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas sustaining POs to venue by Baby Trend, Inc. Baby Trend’s preliminary objections to venue were sustained and the case was transferred to Bucks County. Appellant’s infant died of asphyxiation while sleeping in a car seat manufactured by Baby Trend and under the care of the babysitter. Appellants purchased the car seat from Babies R Us. Appellants resided in Bucks County and a cause of action arose in Bucks County. Baby Tend is a California-based corporation with no registered offices in Pennsylvania. The complaint was filed in Philadelphia County in products liability, negligence, etc. There was also a motion to compel discovery, and there was an issue concerning subpoenas. In determining whether venue was proper, the courts employed a “quality-quantity analysis”. A business entity must perform acts in a county of sufficient quality and quantity before venue in that county will be established. The term “quality of acts” means those directly furthering, or essential to, corporate abject; they do not include incidental acts. To satisfy the quantity prong of the analysis, acts must be sufficiently continuous so as to be considered habitual. The court cited to Hangey v. Husqvarna, 2023 Westlaw 8102730 (Pa. November 22, 2023). In Hangey, the court did permit a Philadelphia venued case. Appellants asserted that the trial court erred in viewing Baby Trend’s direct-to-Philadelphia-consumer sales of .0018 percent of total sales in isolation and by failing to consider the import of its sales through big-box retailers entirely. Baby Trend’s direct website sales to consumers in Philadelphia County comprised less than 1% of its total sales, is de minimis and purely incidental – those sales simply do not further, and are not essential to Baby Trend’s business objective of serving as a wholesaler of juvenile items to retail chains. Baby Trend: (1) does not own any real estate in Philadelphia; (2) does not maintain any place of business in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania; (3) does not employ any sales representatives in Philadelphia; (4) does not possess any licenses, registrations or authorizations from Pennsylvania; and (5) is not registered as a foreign corporation for purposes of doing business in Philadelphia. There are no authorized dealers in Philadelphia.