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Case Bulletin – Third Circuit Upholds Dismissal Based On Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

On September 7, 2017, the Third Circuit upheld a dismissal of a Complaint against Walt Disney Parks and the Walt Disney Company based upon lack of personal jurisdiction. See Barth v. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S., Inc., 2017 WL 3951783 (3d Cir. Sept. 8, 2017) (unpublished). The Plaintiffs sued the Disney Defendants in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas arising out of an incident at Disney World in Florida where Plaintiff was bit by a copperhead snake. Defendants removed the case to the Eastern District federal court and then moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, which was granted.

The Third Circuit affirmed this ruling, explaining that in order to establish general personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, the Plaintiffs were required to show that the Defendants’ connections to the forum state were so continuous and systematic that they were essentially at home in the forum State. This will generally be either where the defendant (1) is incorporated or (2) has its principle place of business. However, in “exceptional case[s], … a corporation’s operations in a [different] forum . . . may be so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State.” Id. (citing Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 761 n. 19 (2014)). These Disney defendants were neither incorporated in nor had a principle place of business in Pennsylvania. Further, the court held that exceptional circumstances were not present to warrant personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. The court explained that while Plaintiffs “argued that companies affiliated with Defendants did substantial business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, . . . those facts were unavailing . . . because those contacts could not be imputed to Defendants.” Thus, the Eastern District’s granting of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss was affirmed.