FUENTES v. MEHRA et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Robert B. Kugler on 6/15/2015. (dmr)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
(Doc. No. 7)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil No. 14-8118 (RBK/KMW)
DR. RANEE MEHRA, M.D., et al.,
KUGLER, United States District Judge:
This matter comes before the Court upon the unopposed motion by Defendants to dismiss
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(2) and for improper venue pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3), or in the alternative, to transfer venue
to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
For the reasons expressed below, although the Court finds that there is no personal jurisdiction
over Defendants and that venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391, it will deny Defendants’
motions to dismiss and instead transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
This dispute arises out of Plaintiff Sara Fuentes’ (“Plaintiff”) claim for alleged medical
malpractice during a course of treatment and observation by Defendant Dr. Ranee Mehra (“Dr.
Mehra”) at Defendant American Oncologic Hospital d/b/a Fox Chase Cancer Center (incorrectly
identified as Fox Chase Cancer Center; hereinafter “American Oncologic Hospital”) (collectively
“Defendants”). Dr. Mehra is a citizen of Pennsylvania and has a license to practice medicine
solely in Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5; Defs. Br. 2.) American Oncologic Hospital is also a
citizen of Pennsylvania because it is incorporated in Pennsylvania and has its principal place of
business in Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, is a citizen of New
Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 4.)
Plaintiff received treatment and observation from Defendants from 2010-2013 due to her
previous diagnosis of lung cancer. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-15.) In 2012, Plaintiff underwent a period of
observation with no reported recurrence of the cancer. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Around January 2012, a PET
scan revealed a nodule in Plaintiff’s lower lobe. (Id. at ¶ 10.) However, Defendants failed to
inform Plaintiff of the presence of the nodule. (Id.) A second nodule was revealed by a PET
scan on October 26, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Dr. Mehra did not inform Plaintiff of these nodules until
December 3, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 14.) On January 8, 2013, Dr. Mehra further informed Plaintiff that a
biopsy showed that she was positive for malignant cells. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants were negligent for their failure to recognize her condition in a timely manner. (Id. at
¶ 19.) She further alleges that this negligence has caused her and will continue to cause her great
pain and suffering, and to incur medical expenses. (Id.)
All of the alleged medical malpractice occurred at the American Oncologic Hospital
facility located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Plaintiff does not allege that any care was
provided in New Jersey. (Def.’s Br. 2; Am Compl.) Plaintiff does allege in her Amended
Complaint that Fox Chase Cancer Center provides oncology services in three locations in New
Jersey.1 (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.)
Plaintiff filed her Complaint on December 31, 2014. (Doc. No. 1.) Upon this Court’s
order, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint properly alleging diversity jurisdiction on January
19, 2015. (Doc. No. 6.) Thereafter, Defendants filed the instant motion. (Doc. No. 7.)
A. Personal Jurisdiction
When a defendant raises a personal jurisdictional objection, the plaintiff bears the burden
of showing that jurisdiction is proper. Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat’l Ass’n v. Farino, 960 F.2d
1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992). A plaintiff meets this burden by presenting a prima facie case for the
exercise of personal jurisdiction, which requires that he or she establish “with reasonable
particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state.” Id. (citing Provident
Nat’l Bank v. California Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 819 F.2d 434 (3d Cir. 1987)). It is insufficient
to rely on the pleadings alone; rather a plaintiff must establish facts relevant to personal
jurisdiction by affidavits or other competent evidence. Patterson v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation,
893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd.,
735 F.2d 61, 67 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984)).
On a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss for improper venue, the burden is on the moving
party to show that venue is improper. Bockman v. First Am. Mktg. Corp., 459 Fed. App’x 157,
Plaintiff alleges that Fox Chase Cancer Center has facilities in Voorhees, Marlton, and Mt. Holly, New Jersey. It is
unclear whether or not American Oncologic Hospital is affiliated with these New Jersey Locations of Fox Chase
160 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Myers v. Am. Dental Ass’n, 695 F.2d 716, 724–25 (3d Cir. 1982)).
Importantly, venue must be proper as to each claim. See, e.g., Cmty. Surgical Supply of Tom’s
River, Inc. v. Medline Diamed, LLC, No. 11–221, 2011 WL 3235706, at *3 (D.N.J. July 28,
2011). In considering a Rule 12(b)(3) motion, a court must generally accept a complaint’s
allegations as true, unless contradicted by the defendant’s affidavits, and a court may consider
facts outside the complaint; but all reasonable inferences must be made in the plaintiff’s favor.
See Bockman, 459 Fed. App’x at 158 n.1.
Defendants move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P
12(b)(2) and for improper venue pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3). As discussed below, the
Court finds that there is no personal jurisdiction over Defendants in New Jersey and that venue is
improper in New Jersey under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). However, the Court will transfer this case to
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
A. Personal Jurisdiction
To exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, a federal court sitting in diversity must
undertake a two-step inquiry. IMO Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert, AG, 155 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir.
1998). First, the court must apply the relevant state long-arm statute to see if it permits the
exercise of personal jurisdiction. Id.; see Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)) (“[A] federal district court may assert personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident of the state in which the court sits to the extent authorized by the law of that state.”)
Second, the court must apply the principles of due process. IMO Indus., Inc., 155 F.3d at 259.
In New Jersey, this inquiry is combined into a single step because the New Jersey long-arm
statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the fullest extent permissible under the
Due Process Clause. Id.; see Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 145 (3d Cir.
1992) (citing N.J. Court R. 4:4-4(c)) (“The New Jersey long-arm rule extends to the limits of the
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process protection.”)
Due process permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant
where the defendant has “certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance
of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Provident
Nat’l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437 (internal citations and quotations omitted). A plaintiff may establish
jurisdiction by proving the existence of either specific or general jurisdiction. Id. To establish
specific jurisdiction, a plaintiff must demonstrate that “the particular cause of action sued upon
arose from the defendant’s activities within the forum state.” Id. On the other hand, to establish
general jurisdiction, the plaintiff must “show significantly more than mere minimum contacts”;
the defendant’s forum contacts must be “continuous and substantial.” Id. (citing Gehling v. St.
George’s Sch. of Med., Ltd, 773 F.2d 539, 541 (3d Cir. 1985); Compagnie des Bauxites de
Guinea v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 651 F.2d 877 (3d Cir. 1981)).
Specific jurisdiction is established when a nonresident defendant has “purposefully
directed” his activities at a resident of the forum and the injury arises from, or is related to, those
activities. See Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewiczi, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985). To comport with
the requirements of Due Process, a plaintiff must show that (1) the nonresident defendant has
“certain minimum contacts with [the forum state]” and that (2) “the maintenance of the suit does
not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”’ Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).
The minimum contacts requirement is satisfied so long as the contacts resulted from the
defendant’s purposeful conduct and not the unilateral activities of the plaintiff. See World–Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297–98 (1980). Put differently, there must be
some act or acts by which a defendant “purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting
activities within the forum State, Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958), such that the
defendant should “reasonably anticipate being haled into court” there. World–Wide Volkswagen
Corp., 444 U.S. at 297.
In this instance, the Court does not find that Plaintiff has met her burden of proof in
establishing that Defendants have the requisite minimum contacts with the District of New
Jersey in order to be subject to specific jurisdiction here. Even if it is assumed that American
Oncologic Hospital has contacts to New Jersey through the Fox Chase Cancer Centers in the
three New Jersey locations,2 Plaintiff alleges nothing to demonstrate that “the particular cause of
action sued upon arose from the defendant’s activities within the forum state.” Provident Nat’l
Bank, 819 F.2d at 437. Therefore, even if the Defendants “purposefully directed” some activities
at the forum state, the injury did not arise from, or is not related to, those activities. See Burger
King Corp., 471 U.S. at 472; see also Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466
U.S. 408, 414 (1984) (noting that in order for a forum state to exercise specific jurisdiction over
a defendant, the case must “arise out of or relate” to the defendant’s activities within the state).
Consequently, there is no specific jurisdiction over American Oncologic Hospital.
Furthermore, there is no specific jurisdiction over Dr. Mehra because Plaintiff does not
See supra, note 1.
allege that Dr. Mehra has any contacts whatsoever with New Jersey but rather that she is a
citizen of Pennsylvania and licensed to practice therein. Therefore, the Plaintiff has not met her
burden of proof and there is no specific jurisdiction over either defendant.3
Nevertheless, general jurisdiction may be invoked when the claim does not “arise out of
or is unrelated to the defendant’s contacts with the forum.” Carteret Sav. Bank, FA, 954 F.2d at
149 (quoting Dollar Sav. Bank v. First Sec. Bank of Utah, 746 F.2d 208, 211 (3d Cir. 1984)).
General jurisdiction is satisfied when the defendant’s affiliations with the forum state are so
“continuous and systematic” as to render them “at home” in the forum state. Goodyear Dunlop
Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011). A corporation will be deemed at
home in certain “paradigm forum[s],” which include the state in which the corporation is
incorporated and has its principal place of business. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760
(2014). An individual will be deemed at home where he or she is domiciled. Id.
Here, American Oncologic Hospital is “at home” in Pennsylvania, not New Jersey,
because it is incorporated in Pennsylvania and has its principal place of business in
Pennsylvania. While these “paradig[m] . . . bases for general jurisdiction” set forth in Daimler
are not an exhaustive list, Plaintiff fails to allege any other facts that would render American
Oncologic Hospital essentially at home in New Jersey.4 Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 760.
Since the specific jurisdiction analysis fails at the first step, there is no need to analyze whether or not the second
step is met in which the maintenance of the suit must not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.” Int’l Shoe Co., 326 U.S. at 316.
Daimler held that in the context of general jurisdiction, it is not enough that a corporation engage in “substantial,
continuous, and systematic” business in a state. 134 S.Ct. at 761. For that reason, the fact that Fox Chase Cancer
Center does business in New Jersey alone is insufficient to render American Oncologic Hospital “at home” in New
Jersey, even when assuming that American Oncologic Center has contact with New Jersey through the Fox Chase
Cancer Center locations. Rather, only in an “exceptional case . . . [would] a corporation’s operations in a forum
Additionally, Dr. Mehra is “at home” in Pennsylvania and not New Jersey because she is
domiciled in Pennsylvania. Therefore, because there is not general or specific jurisdiction over
Defendants, New Jersey does not have personal jurisdiction over them.
Defendants argue that venue in New Jersey is improper because Defendants do not reside
in New Jersey and none of the events underlying this lawsuit occurred in New Jersey. Generally,
in a diversity action, venue is proper only in:
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents
of the State in which the district is located; (2) a judicial district in which a
substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . .; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided
in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s
personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). For the reasons expressed below, this Court finds that venue is not proper
in this district.
1. Venue in New Jersey is not proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1).
New Jersey is not a proper venue under § 1391(b)(1) because Defendants are not
residents of New Jersey. For purposes of venue, an individual is considered to reside in the
judicial district in which he or she is domiciled. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(1). Meanwhile, a
corporation is considered to reside in any district in which it is subject to the court’s personal
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). As discussed above, American Oncologic Hospital is not
other than its formal place of incorporation or principal place of business . . . be so substantial and of such a nature
as to render the corporation at home in that State.” Id. at n.19. See e.g., Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Min. Co., 342
U.S. 437, 447-48 (1952) (holding that there was general jurisdiction in Ohio over a Philippine corporation that had
its temporary place of business in Ohio due to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II).
Because Plaintiff fails to allege any of these “exceptional” circumstances, there is no general jurisdiction over
subject to the Court’s personal jurisdiction. And Dr. Mehra is domiciled in Pennsylvania
because she is a citizen of Pennsylvania. Consequently, because neither Defendant resides in
New Jersey, venue is not proper here under § 1391(b)(1).
2. Venue in New Jersey is not proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
Venue is also improper under § 1391(b)(2) since a substantial part of the events or
omissions giving rise to this claim did not occur in New Jersey. According to the Third Circuit,
“[t]he test for determining venue [under § 1391(b)(2)] is not the defendant’s contacts with a
particular district, but rather the location of those events or omissions giving rise to the claim.”
Cottmann Transmission Sys., Inc. v. Martino, 36 F.3d 291, 294 (3d Cir. 1994) (internal
quotations omitted). Events or omissions that only have “some tangential connection” with the
dispute are not sufficient to support venue under § 1391(b)(2). Id.
The Court finds that the acts or omission relevant to Plaintiff’s claims all substantially
occurred outside New Jersey. Plaintiff’s claims arise from Defendants’ alleged medical
malpractice. This alleged medical malpractice, which consisted of treatment and observation
from 2010-2013, occurred at American Oncologic Hospital’s facility in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. The PET scans which showed nodules on Plaintiff’s lungs were conducted in
Pennsylvania as were all consultations with Dr. Mehra, who was only licensed to practice in
Pennsylvania. Plaintiff does not allege that any acts or omission which gave rise to the alleged
medical malpractice occurred in New Jersey.5 For these reasons, the Court finds that venue is
Plaintiff alleges in her Amended Complaint that venue is proper in New Jersey because she is a citizen of New
Jersey, because Fox Chase Cancer Center does business in New Jersey, and because Dr. Mehra resides within 100
miles of the boundaries of New Jersey. Am. Compl. ¶ 3. The fact that the Plaintiff is a resident of New Jersey is not
a substantial fact giving rise to the medical malpractice claim. The Supreme Court has held that, under § 1391(b),
not proper in New Jersey. 6
C. Transfer of Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406
Finding that venue is improper in New Jersey, however, does not end this Court’s
analysis. According to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), “[t]he district court of a district in which is filed a
case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of
justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought.” §
1406(a). “Transfer in lieu of dismissal is generally appropriate to avoid penalizing plaintiffs by
‘time-consuming and justice-defeating technicalities.’” Bockman, 459 Fed. App’x at 162 n.11
(quoting Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 467 (1962)); see also J.F. Lomma, Inc. v.
Stevenson Crane Servs., Inc., No. 10-3496, 2011 WL 463051, at *5 (D.N.J. Feb. 3, 2011)
(“Transfer is generally more in the interest of justice than dismissal.”) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Moreover, the fact that the Court does not have personal jurisdiction over the
Defendants “does not strip it of the power to transfer the case to an appropriate district.”
Gehling, 773 F.2d at 544 (“[A] district court lacking personal jurisdiction can transfer a case to a
district in which the case could have been brought originally.”)
The Court finds that this action could have originally been brought in the Eastern District
“Congress did not intend to provide for venue at the residence of the plaintiff.” Leroy v. Great Western United
Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 185 (1979). Furthermore, the fact that Fox Chase Cancer Center does business in New Jersey
does not make New Jersey a proper venue, even if the American Oncologic Hospital was found to be affiliated with
the New Jersey locations. This is no more than a “tangential connection,” since all alleged medical care that gave
rise to Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim occurred in Pennsylvania and Plaintiff did not contend that she received
any care in New Jersey. Cottmann Transmission Sys., Inc., 36 F.3d at 294. As stated by the Third Circuit, “general
contacts with [a state] . . . fail to show the jurisdiction where the acts or omissions giving rise to the Complaint
occurred.” Bockman, 459 Fed. App’x at 160. Finally, there is no provision found anywhere in § 1391(b) that makes
venue appropriate when the defendant resides within 100 miles of the jurisdiction in which the claim is brought.
Since it has been determined that neither defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey, venue is also
not appropriate under § 1391(b)(3).
of Pennsylvania. Venue is appropriate under § 1391(b)(2) because, as previously stated, all of
the substantial acts or omissions giving rise to Plaintiff’s claim, such as the medical observation
and treatment, occurred in Pennsylvania.7 Venue would also be proper under 1391(b)(1) because
both Defendants reside in Pennsylvania.8 Furthermore, personal jurisdiction exists over both
defendants in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.9 There is general jurisdiction over Dr. Mehra
because she is a citizen of Pennsylvania. There is also general jurisdiction over American
Oncologic Hospital since it is incorporated and has its principal place of business in
Pennsylvania. Furthermore, Defendants have expressed a willingness to submit to personal
jurisdiction in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by virtue of their alternative request to
transfer. And, Plaintiff consents to transfer. (Doc. No. 11). See Eldon v. Brown, No. 08-5422,
2010 WL 415317, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2010) (holding that transfer was “fair and aligned with
the interests of justice” because both parties requested the transfer); see also Adelman v. Peter,
No. 06-6007, 2007 WL 4557651, at *8 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2007) (holding that it was appropriate to
grant the defendant’s motion to transfer because, although plaintiffs did file opposition briefs,
plaintiffs did not assert that they would prefer dismissal to transfer).
Because transfer to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is appropriate and will facilitate a
decision on the merits in this case, the Court concludes that this case should be transferred to the
United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
See supra, Part (III)(B)(2).
See supra Part (III)(B)(1).
See supra, Part (III)(A).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of
improper venue and for lack of personal jurisdiction. In the alternative, the Court will grant
Defendants’ motion to transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). An appropriate Order will issue.
s/ Robert B. Kugler
ROBERT B. KUGLER
United States District Judge
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