Interesting Spin in Pennsylvania Blender Case

In Pennsylvania, there is no statutory framework for Pennsylvania judges to determine general jurisdiction, so of interest was a recent case by Judge New of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  In Derringer v. Conair, the Court found that a Pennsylvania trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over a Delaware corporation headquartered in Connecticut. Sandra Derringer, a New Jersey plaintiff, was injured while using a Conair Smart Stick blender. She brought two actions against Conair, one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey.

Judge New dismissed the Pennsylvania action holding that Derringer failed to show that Conair purposefully distributed it’s products in Pennsylvania. He noted that the incident occurred in New Jersey, so there was no personal jurisdiction, and furthermore, the court had no general jurisdiction because there was no demonstrable evidence of continuous and systematic contacts between Conair’s business activities and Pennsylvania. Although Derringer demonstrated that stores in Pennsylvania sell Conair’s products, without proof of relationships between Conair and third-party Pennsylvania retailers, this evidence was insufficient to prove that Conair purposefully distributed the products into the “stream of commerce”.

Based on the lack of statutory guidance and limited case precedent, this case could prove useful when considering the issue of corporate jurisdiction. In adjudicating Derringer, Judge New looked to U.S. Supreme Court case law, specifically Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown, which held that merely putting products into the stream of commerce is insufficient to establish general jurisdiction. Non-resident corporations are only subject to general jurisdiction in circumstances where the corporations’ association with the state is so “continuous and systematic as to render them essentially home in the state.” Moving forward it appears that more Pennsylvania judges will start the fact-sensitive jurisdiction inquiry from this position.

Thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution to this post.  If you would like more information please write to mbono@wcmlaw.com.