Harvey v. Sunoco, Inc., PICS Case No. 13-3383 (C.P. Philadelphia, Oct. 29, 2013 Bernstein, J. (4 pages).

COURTS OF COMMON PLEAS

The Legal Intelligencer

CIVIL PRACTICE

Personal Jurisdiction • Minimum Contacts • Leukemia

Harvey v. Sunoco, Inc., PICS Case No. 13-3383 (C.P. Philadelphia, Oct. 29, 2013 Bernstein, J. (4 pages).

Plaintiff Harvey filed his complaint on December 17, 2012 alleging he contracted leukemia as a result of exposure to benzene while working at oil refineries in several states, including Pennsylvania between 2002 through 2012. Co-defendant Valero Refining and Marketing Company (VRMC) objected to the complaint on grounds that Pennsylvania lacked personal jurisdiction. Following a hearing, the court granted VRMC's objections to the complaint and dismissed VRMC as a party to the action. Harvey (although incorrectly stated as VRMC in the opinion) appealed the decision.

Harvey alleged there were two bases for general jurisdiction over VRMC: 1) jurisdictional contacts of VRMC subsidiary were imputed to VRMC; and 2) VRMC assigned its trademark to a corporation who permitted the trademark's use in the advertisement of gas stations in Pennsylvania. VRMC argued it is incorporated in Delaware, principal place of business is Texas, no employees or goods sold in Pennsylvania and does not own, operate or generate revenue from stations using the "Valero" trademark.

The court denied Harvey's appeal ruling VRMC did not have sufficient "minimum contacts" to sustain jurisdiction over VRMC; VRMC did not have continuous or systematic business with Pennsylvania. Although Valero Refining Company of New Jersey had contracts in Pennsylvania, VRMC was not a named contracting party nor guaranteed performance on any contracts. Further, despite VRMC permitting the use of its "Valero" trademark to its subsidiary, VRMC did not exercise control over the subsidiary; as such, a "subsidiary's actions are not imputed to a parent corporation." Botwinick v. Credit Exchange, Inc., 213 A.2d 349, 354 (Pa. 1965) Therefore, the order granting dismissal of VRMC was proper.