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Fredriksson v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation

March 17, 2008

ULLA CHRISTINE FREDRIKSSON, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF PETER JARL FREDRIKSSON AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR HER MINOR CHILDREN, NICLAS FREDRIKSSON, SEBASTIAN FREDRIKSSON AND NICOLE FREDRIKSSON; MARJATTA PEURALA, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF SEPPO ANTERO PEURALA, AND ANITI OLAVI PEURALA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORPORATION, INC.; HELICOPTER SUPPORT, INC.; HR TEXTRON, INC., A WHOLLY OWNED SUBSIDIARY OF TEXTRON, INC.; AND PLASMA TECHNOLOGY, INCORPORATED, DEFENDANTS.
PIRKKO ONVERVA KOPPERI, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF ONNI MATTI KOPPERI, AND MARIKA KOPPERI-GRONLUND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORPORATION, INC.; HELICOPTER SUPPORT, INC.; HR TEXTRON, INC., A WHOLLY OWNED SUBSIDIARY OF TEXTRON, INC.; AND PLASMA TECHNOLOGY, INCORPORATED, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glasser, United States Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

BACKGROUND

On September 10, 2007, this Court issued an order in Copterline Oy v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., 06 CV 6787, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66797 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 2007), finding that it lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant Helicopter Support, Inc. ("HSI"), and transferred the action to the District of Connecticut pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) (the "Copterline transfer order"). Familiarity with that order is presumed.

The Copterline action was brought by the operator of a Finnish helicopter service, Copterline Oy, against HSI and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. ("Sikorsky"), Connecticut companies that sold to Copterline Oy a helicopter and an allegedly defective replacement part, the actuator, that Copterline Oy claims caused the helicopter to crash into the Baltic Sea.*fn1 Also pending in this Court are two actions arising out of the same operative facts as the Copterline action. These actions, Fredriksson v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Docket No. 07 CV 0214, and Kopperi v. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Docket No. 07 CV 3146, were filed by relatives*fn2 of the victims of that same helicopter crash, and are virtually identical in that they are based on the same set of facts and assert the same causes of action for strict products liability, breach of warranty, negligence, willful misconduct/ gross negligence, and wrongful death*fn3 against the same four defendants, HSI, Sikorsky, HR Textron, Inc. ("HR Textron"), and Plasma Technology Inc. ("PTI") (collectively, "Defendants").*fn4 Both complaints allege that the crash of Copterline Oy's Sikorsky S-76 C helicopter was caused by defects in the actuator installed on the helicopter that was designed and manufactured by HR Textron and Sikorsky, overhauled and reconditioned by PTI, and sold by HSI. See Fredriksson Am. Compl. ¶ 14; Kopperi Compl. ¶ 12.*fn5

PROCEDURAL POSTURE

Prior to the issuance of the Copterline transfer order, PTI and HSI filed separate motions in the Fredriksson action, arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction over them. Sikorsky joined in HSI's motion papers to argue that, in the event the Court found it had jurisdiction over HSI, it could alternatively consider transferring the action to the District of Connecticut pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) because many of the documents relating to the case are located at HSI and Sikorsky's headquarters there. However, about a week later, HSI and Sikorsky moved to amend their motion to omit the request to transfer. PTI and HSI later filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in the Kopperi action, again making the same arguments as they did in the Fredrikkson action. However, HSI did not renew its alternative transfer argument.

On October 16, 2007, the parties in the Fredrikkson and Kopperi actions filed a joint status report indicating their agreement that, in light of this Court's finding in the Copterline action that it lacks personal jurisdiction over HSI, these actions should not continue to be litigated in this Court. Plaintiffs in these two actions have now moved to transfer to the District of Connecticut pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) ("Section 1406(a)"). They have also filed papers they term "statements of qualified non-opposition" to the motions to dismiss filed by HSI and PTI, meaning that they will not oppose a finding that this Court lacks jurisdiction over those defendants provided that it grants the transfer motions.

In opposition to the transfer motions, HR Textron, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California, argues that Plaintiffs have not shown that it is subject to personal jurisdiction in Connecticut, and therefore it would be improper for this Court to transfer these actions to Connecticut. It also argues that the transfers would not be in the "interest of justice" pursuant to Section 1406(a).

Defendants also assert that, before ruling on the transfer motions, the Court should first consider a motion for forum non conveniens, which HR Textron plans to make but has not yet filed.*fn6 In that motion, HR Textron claims it will argue that both the Fredrikkson and Kopperi actions should be tried in Finland where the evidence relating to damages is located, despite the fact that the Copterline action will proceed in Connecticut.*fn7

Because this Court previously held in the Copterline action that it lacks jurisdiction over HSI, it need not revisit that issue here.*fn8 Thus, the only issue before this Court is whether a transfer of the Fredrikkson and Kopperi actions is proper under Section 1406 as an alternative to dismissal of these actions. For the reasons explained below, this Court finds it to be in the interest of justice to transfer these actions to the District of Connecticut.

DISCUSSION

A. Section 1406

Section 1406 provides that "[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." Section 1406 permits transfer even where the district court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants. See Goldlawr, Inc. v. Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 466 (1962). "Congress, by the enactment of § 1406(a), recognized that 'the interest of justice' may require that the complaint not be dismissed but rather that it be transferred in order that the plaintiff not be penalized by . . . 'time-consuming and justice-defeating technicalities.'" Id. at 467 (quoting Internatio-Rotterdam, Inc. v. Thomsen, 218 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1955)). Courts have "considerable discretion in deciding whether to transfer a case in the interest of justice." Daniel v. Am. Bd. of Emergency Med., 428 F.3d 408, 435 (2d Cir. 2005).

To determine whether Connecticut is an appropriate transferee district, the Court must consider whether the action "could have been brought" there. Here, HR Textron argues that Connecticut would be an improper forum because it lacks personal jurisdiction over HR Textron. "The amenability of a foreign corporation to suit in a federal court in a diversity action . . . is determined in accordance with the law of the state where the court sits . . . ." Jazini by Jazini v. Nissan Motor Co., 148 F.3d 181, 183 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Arrowsmith v. United Press Int'l, 320 F.2d 219, 223 (2d Cir. 1963)). The determination of whether HR Textron is subject to personal jurisdiction in Connecticut is subject to a two-part inquiry: (1) the trial court must first determine whether Connecticut's long-arm statute authorizes jurisdiction over the defendant; and (2) if the statutory requirement is met, the court must ensure that the exercise of jurisdiction would not violate constitutional principles of due process. Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 ...


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