Personal Jurisdiction; Consent-by-Registration

Mallory v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 2020 WL 6375871 (Pa. Super. 2020) (unreported), direct appeal, appeal docket 3 EAP 2021

Mallory filed suit in common pleas court against Norfolk Southern alleging that he developed colon cancer as a result of exposure to harmful carcinogens in violation of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Norfolk filed to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction on the basis of Norfolk’s status as a foreign corporation. Mallory argued that the trial court has jurisdiction over Norfolk, a foreign corporation, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5301(a)(2)(ii), because Norfolk consented to the general jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts by registering to do business in Pennsylvania. The trial court held that the consent-by-registration statute violated constitutional due process and dismissed the complaint. Mallory appealed to Superior Court.

Superior Court transferred the appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court pursuant to Section 722 of the Judiciary Code, which provides that the Supreme Court “shall have exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from final orders of the courts of common pleas” that hold any Pennsylvania statute “repugnant to the Constitution … of the United States.” 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 722(7). Thus, because “the present appeal is from a final order declaring the consent provision of Pennsylvania’s general jurisdiction statute, Section 5301(a)(2)(ii), unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment[, t]he plain language of Section 722(7) mandates that the Supreme Court decide this appeal, not the Superior Court.” Slip Op. at 3.

On appeal, the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5301(a)(2)(ii) as a basis for exercising jurisdiction over a foreign corporation.

For more information, contact Kevin McKeon or Dennis Whitaker.