Pennsylvania Upholds Consent by Registration Personal Jurisdiction Statute
In Michael Data, et al. v. A.O. Smith Corporation, et al., the Western District of Pennsylvania recently upheld the constitutionality of the consent-by-registration statute of Pennsylvania, which requires any corporation or entity that registers to do business in Pennsylvania consent to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania such that the corporation can be “dragged” into Pennsylvania Courts. Corporations have periodically challenged the Pennsylvania consent-by-registration statute, arguing that it runs afoul of binding Supreme Court precedent, which requires minimum contacts. See e.g., Daimler AG v. Bauman.
Here, the defendants challenged the constitutionality of the subject statute in the asbestos context, wherein over 50+ defendants were sued in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The defendants argued the statute was facially unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied to the specific defendants, as that the specific defendants did not register to do business in the state of Pennsylvania until 20 years after the alleged exposure to asbestos.
The Court agreed with the majority of Pennsylvania Courts, holding that the United States Supreme Court decision in Daimler did not impact or change consent by registration regimes and only opined on sufficient contacts with the state forum. The Michael Data Court therefore held the statute to be constitutional. With respect to the defendants’ argument that they did not register to do business in Pennsylvania until 20+ years after the alleged exposure to asbestos, the Court dismissed that argument, finding that the essential “trigger” date in the asbestos context was when the plaintiff filed suit and not when the exposure occurred.
Thus, this case shows Pennsylvania courts will likely be able to maintain jurisdiction under the consent-by-registration statute, over cases for which they may not otherwise have had personal jurisdiction.
Thanks to Matt Care for his contribution to this post. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Colleen Hayes.