Business Registration in Pennsylvania Confers General Personal Jurisdiction Over Talc Supplier Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, October 1, 2018
PENNSYLVANIA The plaintiff Ellen Kleiner filed suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, alleging that she developed ovarian cancer through her use of Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder and Shower to Shower products. She named Johnson & Johnson and the talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, among other defendants. The case was originally removed based upon the fraudulent joinder of a non-diverse party, but the Eastern District of Pennsylvania remanded the case in October 2017. Imerys then filed preliminary objections to the complaint, arguing that the court did not possess either specific or general personal jurisdiction. The court agreed with regard to specific jurisdiction, finding that Imerys had no relationship to Pennsylvania.
However, the court found general personal jurisdiction over Imerys, even though it was neither incorporated nor maintained its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Instead, the court relied on a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision which addressed the effect of corporations registering to do business in Pennsylvania. In Webb-Benjamin, LLC v. International Rug Group, LLC, the Superior Court held that registration as a foreign corporation to do business in Pennsylvania constituted consent to general personal jurisdiction. Despite recent United States Supreme Court opinions on this issue, the Pennsylvania business registration statutes specifically state that registering to do business is deemed consent to general personal jurisdiction. In addition, just prior to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas issuing this decision, the Superior Court issued an identical opinion in Murray v. American LaFrance.