Jon Campisi Jan. 24, 2013, 11:21am
A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has overruled preliminary objections that had
been filed by the defendants in a legal dispute involving a Philadelphia law firm that is suing a Delaware-based limited liability corporation and its principals.
The case dates back to March of last year when attorneys with Cohen, Seglias, Pallas, Greenhall & Furman filed suit against 999 LLC, JJC99 LLC, FLC999 LLC and Joseph and Frank Corrado.
The first defendant is a construction business based in the State of Delaware while Joseph Corrado is the sole proprietor of JJC999 LLC and owns an interest in 999 LLC.
Frank Corrado, Joseph’s brother, is the sole owner of FLC 999 LLC and owns an interest in 999 LLC.
Background on the case shows that Joseph Corrado first retained the plaintiff’s services to perform legal work in Delaware on behalf of certain businesses in which Joseph Corrado had an interest.
Before the commencement of the current action, 999 LLC had become involved in various lawsuits in Delaware, including a lawsuit involving an attorney who formerly worked for the construction company.
Joseph Corrado and other company representatives inquired as to whether the plaintiff’s lawyers would represent the defendants in the underlying litigation, the record shows.
In early August 2007, CSGP&F responded by saying it would represent the defendants in the prior suit against the former attorney for 999 LLC.
In the course of the underlying litigation, the Corrado brothers and other officers of 999 LLC attended at least two meetings in the Philadelphia office of CSGP&F to prepare for mediation and review litigation documents.
At some point during the underlying litigation, 999 LLC concluded that it had been paying excessive legal fees to CSGP&F because there appeared to be “too many lawyers” involved in the case, according to the record.
A dispute ensued and CSGP&F subsequently filed suit against the defendants in an effort to recover any unpaid balance owed to it by the construction company and its principals.
In early June of last year, the defendants filed preliminary objections to the first amended complaint, asking the court to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants.
The defendants also argued that the State of Delaware had a greater interest than Pennsylvania in the adjudication of the case.
Oral arguments were held on the personal jurisdiction issue in Philadelphia on Dec. 5, 2012, the record shows.
In support of their preliminary objections, the defendants argued that personal jurisdiction was not triggered because all of the court appearances in the underlying case took place in Delaware, most if not all of the meetings from that prior case occurred in Delaware and CSGP&F maintain an office in Delaware.
The law firm, meanwhile, argued that Joseph Corrado had reached out to CSGP&F at their Philadelphia office and had full knowledge that the attorney from the plaintiff’s firm was based out of Pennsylvania.
“CSGP&F concludes that these actions are sufficient to place Defendants under personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania …,” reads the judicial ruling by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia A. McInerney, which was filed on Jan. 17.
In her memorandum and opinion, McInerney wrote that Joseph Corrado should have expected that much of the litigation involving the underlying action would be conducted in Pennsylvania because the attorney representing him in that case was based out of the Keystone State.
The judge further wrote that the fact that Joseph Corrado and other 999 LLC representatives had traveled, on at least two occasions, to the plaintiff’s Philadelphia office to prepare for mediation and review documents proved that Corrado “invoked the benefits and protections of Commonwealth on behalf of Defendants by purposefully directing his activities at a resident of Pennsylvania, and by purposefully availing himself and his companies of the privilege of conducting activities therein.”
Accordingly, the judge determined that the defendants established sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania.
In their preliminary objections, the defendants had also argued that the court should still dismiss the action under traditional notions of “fair play and substantial justice,” specifying that the suit should be dismissed because requiring the defendants to litigate their lawsuit in Delaware against the plaintiffs for negligence and improper billing while at the same time defending the instant action in Pennsylvania falls within the parameters of the law on personal specific jurisdiction.
“After analyzing the factors listed above, this court concludes that it is reasonable and fair to require Defendants to conduct their defense in Pennsylvania,” McInerney wrote.
The judge cited as factors supporting her ruling the fact that the defendants’ offices are in Wilmington, Del., which is a relatively short distance from Philadelphia, that the commonwealth has a significant interest in providing a forum to redress the alleged failure of defendants to pay the disputed legal fees, and that the plaintiff has a clear interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief in Pennsylvania.
McInerney also said she ruled this way because the interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies is not diminished by Pennsylvania’s assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defendants, and that the shared interest of the several states in furthering “fundamental substantive social policies are in no way compromised by the assertion of in personam jurisdiction.”
The phrase in personam refers to a court asserting personal jurisdiction over a case.
The judicial ruling allows the case to move forward in the civil trial division of Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court.