Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Decision Affecting Personal Jurisdiction Over Corporations

Corporate defendants being hauled into Pennsylvania courts by forum shopping plaintiffs found relief this December 22, 2021, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company in a decision that will have far-reaching effects.

The Court held that Pennsylvania’s statutory scheme of compelled consent ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s due process holdings that for a state to exercise general jurisdiction over a corporate defendant, the defendant must be “at home.”

Now, as in the majority of states, for a corporate defendant to be subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, it must be incorporated in Pennsylvania, have its principal place of business in Pennsylvania, or the facts giving rise to the lawsuit must satisfy Pennsylvania’s long arm statute. Additionally, a defendant not originally subject to the personal jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts may still voluntarily consent to or waive the right to object to personal jurisdiction.

As a result of Mallory, defendants sued in Pennsylvania now have the due process protections enjoyed in most other states and are in a much better position to object to an improper exercise of personal jurisdiction.

However, given the facts of a case, identity and number of parties, and other considerations, a party may opt to strategically consent to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Knowledgeable counsel, well-versed in Pennsylvania law and with a national presence, will be able to identify whether a challenge to personal jurisdiction is possible and help determine whether such as challenge is strategically appropriate.

About the Authors

Joseph Fontak Partner, Philadelphia Office, has extensive experience in a variety of litigation areas, including toxic tort, product liability, securities, commercial, real estate and insurance. Contact him at jfontak@leaderberkon.com

Patrick Fitzmaurice Associate, Philadelphia Office, defends a broad range of clients in premises liability, contract and product liability actions throughout Pennsylvania. Contact him at pfitzmaurice@leaderberkon.com