U.S. District Court Judge Gerald J. Pappert

PHILADELPHIA – Claims brought by an electrical workers union against a Quakertown drilling firm for outstanding benefits have no place in a Pennsylvania court, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a decision this past week.

According to the Court’s opinion from Judge Gerald J. Pappert, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 126 failed to establish the Court as having personal jurisdiction over the matter. 

IBEW filed suit against Cablelinks to “collect delinquent employee benefit fund contributions” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In their answer to the complaint, Cablelinks said its failure to provide the employee contributions was due to the actions of “third-party defendants”, Delmarva Power & Light Company (DP&L) and Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI). Cablelinks asserted the defendants are based in Delaware and Washington, D.C., respectively.

Cablelinks argued DP&L and PHI failed to cover the full $182,298-cost of replacing power grids and wires on contracts for two housing developments in Elkton, Md., and were thus left unable to meet its payroll and union benefit obligations to IBEW. 

Cablelinks filed a third-party complaint against DP&L and PHI, seeking to recover the outstanding costs of $113,121.75 from the aforementioned contracts. DP&L and PHI collectively motioned to dismiss the complaint for lack of general and/or specific jurisdiction, a position the Court concurred with. In effect, the Court determined DP&L and PHI did not meet the requirements necessary to be held liable under the state’s long-arm statute.

“In regard to general jurisdiction, Cablelinks has proffered no evidence that the third-party defendants carry on continuous and substantial contacts with Pennsylvania,” Pappert said. “The sole evidence that Cablelinks alludes to is the existence of one P.O. Box located in Philadelphia that DP&L customers may use to deposit payments. The P.O. Box is neither owned nor operated by DP&L. Such an assertion, even if true, falls far short of the Supreme Court’s standard of ‘continuous and systematic’ contacts.”

Pappert added the plaintiff did not establish specific jurisdiction towards DP&L and PHI, either through where the subject activity occurred or where their own mailing address associated with correspondence to the defendants is located, in Quakertown.

“According to Cablelinks’s third-party complaint, the litigation arises out of activity that occurred in, and was directed toward, Maryland – not Pennsylvania,” Pappert said. “Neither DP&L nor PHI is required to deliver goods nor services to Pennsylvania – the delivery of those goods and services is the obligation of the contractor, Cablelinks.”

Pappert said the lack of connection to Pennsylvania made the defendants’ motion to dismiss an appropriate one.

“Cablelinks’s claims against the defendants arise out of contracts that were agreed to outside of Pennsylvania, with Delaware corporations, for work to be performed in Maryland,” Pappert said. “Cablelinks has not supported its substantiations of personal jurisdiction with any evidence whatsoever outside of its pleadings. The Court clearly lacks personal jurisdiction over the DP&L and PHI and their motion to dismiss is granted accordingly.”

The plaintiff was represented by Jeremy E. Meyer of Cleary Josem & Trigiani, in Philadelphia.

The defendants were represented by Bryan A. George in Huntingdon Valley, plus Lisa C. McLaughlin and Robert S. Goldman of Phillips Goldman Spence, in Wilmington, Del.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-01925

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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