Pennsylvania Record

Monday, December 9, 2019

Superior Court affirms that trial court has jurisdiction in injury case against Russian company

State Court

By Shanice Harris | Nov 20, 2019

Coal 07

HARRISBURG – A Russian steel and mining company has lost its appeal of a trial court's decision that the court had personal jurisdiction in a lawsuit over a man's injuries at a coal plant.

OAO Severstal filed for an appeal from a May 2017 order overruling its initial objection to the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas' jurisdiction over the case. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision on Oct. 3.

John Williams originally filed the suit against OAO Severstal and Tri-State Safety Training Services after he suffered injuries on the job. The ruling states in April 2012, Williams was working for Merit Contracting Inc., which is owned by OAO Severstal’s subsidiary PBS Coals Inc., and suffered severe injuries while constructing a raw coal bin while on the job. Afterward, Williams filed a complaint against PBS Coals and OAO Severstal.

During discovery, the trial court overruled the OAO Severstal's preliminary objections as to personal jurisdiction, according to the Superior Court's ruling. 

“On May 31, 2017, the trial court amended the order to certify that the case presented a substantial issue of personal jurisdiction,” the ruling states.

OAO Severstal appealed with questions regarding if a plaintiff can be required to plead the existence of personal jurisdiction when suing an out-of-state defendant and whether the trial court committed an error of law by denying its preliminary objection.

In the appeal, the court determined that PBS Coals was an “undercapitalized, wholly-owned subsidiary that was dependent upon appellant’s financial assistance, whether directly or indirectly,” according to the ruling. “Although PBS Coals observed corporate formalities as to separate accounts, records, and personnel, it shared one-half of its board of directors with appellant.” 

Because of this, it was determined that the two companies are "so intertwined" that the trial court did not abuse its decision to exercise personal jurisdiction over OAO Severstal.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case number 938 WDA 2017

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