Businesses Can’t Cancel This Registration: Registration Of Your Business In Pennsylvania Means You Can Be Sued In Pennsylvania

January 25, 2019

A recent case from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that registration to do business in Pennsylvania was sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction in a product liability litigation over talc. In the case of Youse v. Johnson & Johnson, et. al., Judge Michael Baylson refused to dismiss a Defendant for a lack of jurisdiction.

Plaintiff in the case claimed that she "was exposed to asbestos from the personal use of cosmetic talcum powder products and through family members who also used cosmetic talcum powder products on plaintiff and others." She stated further that she was diagnosed with papillary mesothelioma on November 13, 2015 and asserts that in May 2018 she "learned that her exposure to asbestos containing talcum powder was the factual cause of her Mesothelioma." She alleged several causes of action based on this and her husband filed a loss of consortium claim.

One of the defendants claimed that it could not be subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania because its only contact with the state is through its business registration, which it asserted was not a sufficient basis for personal jurisdiction under controlling case law. It is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California. To be sued in a state, there must be sufficient contacts with that state for the defendant to be subject to jurisdiction. The defendant here claimed that its only contact was that it was required to register to do business in Pennsylvania.

Judge Baylson found that the registration was a sufficient contact stating that the Third Circuit has previously held that registration to do business in Pennsylvania was sufficient. The Defendant urged the Court that recent US Supreme Court precedent should override those previous decisions. However, the Court disagreed and found that the Defendant's registration to do business in Pennsylvania and consent to jurisdiction was sufficient and that recent US Supreme Court cases did not disturb the precedent holding that was the case.

This case is of interest to companies that have a national reach because Pennsylvania requires companies to register to do business in the state if they intend for their operations to reach Pennsylvania. At least for the moment, out of state companies will have to be aware that doing so amounts to consent to being called into Court in Pennsylvania. In situations such as this, businesses and individuals need counsel with the experience that can make the difference in these types of situations. Please contact our offices for a free consultation so we can discuss how this substantial experience can be used to your benefit.