A rather obscure but important case that will cut down on forum shopping

The case name was JACKIE L. SULLIVAN, Executrix of The Estate of JOHN L. SULLIVAN, Deceased, and Widow in Her Own Right v. A. W. CHESTERTON, INC., et al. As relevant here, one of the “et al’s” on the defendant side was Huntington Ingalls.

Jackie Sullivan brought this case, for whatever reason, in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County. Defendant Huntington Ingalls had the case removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and since the case concerned asbestos, it was added to the Multi-District Litigation docket for asbestos and thus landed in the lap of Senior United States District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, who is currently in charge of that docket.

Sullivan is a resident of Virginia. Huntingdon Ingalls is incorporated in Virginia and primarily based in Virginia. The exposure of the Plaintiffs late husband to asbestos on board a Navy ship did not occur within the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania.

Huntington Ingalls has no presence in Pennsylvania but does business in the State. A State law requires foreign (out of state) corporations to register in the State and then goes on to state that by registering in the State of Pennsylvania, that Pennsylvania gains personal jurisdiction over the corporation for legal purposes.

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided Daimler AG v Bauman.

Holding : Daimler cannot be sued in California for injuries allegedly caused by conduct of its Argentinian subsidiary when that conduct took place entirely outside of the United States.

Judgment : Reversed, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg on January 14, 2014. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Drawing on the judgement in Daimler, Judge Robreno ruled at Pennsylvania’s statute asserting personal jurisdiction over out of state corporations when said corporation has no presence in the State is an unconstitutional violation of due process. Accordingly, he granted Huntington Ingalls motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The plaintiff can refile this case in Virginia State Court, where both she and Huntington Ingalls reside.

This is a good ruling and should further close the door to forum shopping.

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