Thursday, May 23, 2019

Pennsylvania Superior Court Reviews Issues of Personal Jurisdiction and Forum Non Conveniens Doctrine

In the case of Vaughan v. Olympus America, Inc., No.  2019 Pa. Super. 112 (Pa. Super. April 10, 2019 Panella, J., Olson, J., McLaughlin, J.) (Op. by McLaughlin, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that a trial court abused its discretion in dismissing a Plaintiff’s negligence and fraud claims against a medical device maker for lack of personal jurisdiction and in dismissing other Defendants on forum non conveniens grounds.  

According to the Opinion, the decedent died after medical procedures in North Carolina using the Defendant’s medical device, allegedly because the device was contaminated.     

The device maker was a corporation organized under the laws of Japan with its principle place of business in Tokyo.   

Two New York Corporations with their principle places of business in Pennsylvania were the agents of the device maker for FDA purposes and were allegedly involved in marketing and distributing the scope. 

The administrators of the estate sued the device maker and its agents in Philadelphia County.   

The Philadelphia County trial court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction and granted the Motion of Certain other Defendants for dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds.   

This decision was reversed on appeal.  

The Superior Court noted that the device maker engaged in relevant acts with an in-state company in Pennsylvania and was liable for in-state FDA-related conduct in Pennsylvania.   The appellate court found that the in-state corporation’s activities in conjunction with the device maker at the device maker’s agent were sufficiently linked to the Plaintiff’s claims in order to support specific jurisdiction in Pennsylvania.  

The appellate court also agreed with the Plaintiff’s contention that Pennsylvania was the most appropriate forum for the case and not North Carolina as had been determined by the trial.   The appellate court noted that evidence critical to the Plaintiff’s claims could be found in Pennsylvania since the in-state corporations were the device maker’s agents for FDA purposes.   The Superior Court also found that the public interest’s factors favored Pennsylvania since the agents had robust sales and marketing departments located in Pennsylvania.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 30, 2019). 

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