• New Jersey Cannot Transfer Case to Pennsylvania Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
  • February 19, 2015 | Author: Betsy G. Ramos
  • Law Firm: Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. - Mount Laurel Office
  • Plaintiffs Mohammad were injured in an automobile accident in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs reside in North Bergen, New Jersey and defendants in Bensalem, PA. Plaintiffs filed suit in Bergen County in Mohammad v. Cohen, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2688 (App. Div. Nov. 14, 2014) and defendants moved to dismiss based upon the lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, finding that there was no way to cure the jurisdictional deficiency. The plaintiffs then moved for reconsideration and requested a transfer to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. That motion was denied and the plaintiffs appealed this decision.

    The plaintiffs conceded the lack of personal jurisdiction. Thus, the Appellate Division found no basis to reinstate the case.

    The plaintiffs argued, however, that the case should be transferred to the Pennsylvania state court. The plaintiffs analogized this matter to a child custody suit or the federal courts’ ability to transfer venue amongst the district courts.

    The Appellate Division found that neither provided a legal basis for a transfer. Unless there is an authorizing statute permitting the transfer between sovereign jurisdictions, such as in child custody cases, a transfer would improperly interfere Pennsylvania’s sovereign powers. The appeals court stated that it cannot require a sovereign court take up a New Jersey case or take any action that would impair that state’s ability to enforce its statute of limitations.

    However, the Appellate Division did reverse the trial court’s order to dismiss with prejudice and held that the dismissal should be without prejudice. Because this dismissal was based upon a procedural ground, i.e., lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiffs should have been given the opportunity to cure this deficiency. Additionally, if the dismissal was with prejudice, it incorrectly signals to other sovereign courts that the dismissal was on the merits, likely precluding litigation in another jurisdiction.