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A & M Trading Corp. v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co.

Decided: November 16, 1953.

A & M TRADING CORPORATION, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY, . . . ISBRANDTSEN COMPANY, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND SEVENTEEN OTHER CASES



On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.

For affirmance -- Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling Jacobs and Brennan. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.

Wachenfeld

[13 NJ Page 518] This appeal, taken under Rule 4:2-2(c), now R.R. 2:2-3(a)(3), is from an order made in the court below denying the motion of the appellant Isbrandtsen Company,

Inc., seeking: (1) to set aside the service of summons and complaint upon Isbrandtsen in each cause of action; (2) a dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaints; (3) judgments in favor of Isbrandtsen. The cause was certified here on our own motion.

The appellant alleges it is immune from the service of process because on May 19, 1950 and subsequent thereto it performed no act and concluded no contract in New Jersey relating to the cause of action alleged against it, and its activities do not subject it to the jurisdiction of the court inasmuch as they do not constitute "doing business" in this State.

Relief was denied upon the ground that Isbrandtsen was "doing business" in this State at the time the summonses and complaints were filed and served.

There were motions directed to each of the many actions, but they are identical, were argued jointly below, and were disposed of by the entering of a single order. The cases were consolidated for the purpose of this appeal.

The suits sought recovery for personal injuries and property damage sustained as a result of "a violent explosion of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and dynamite in or about South Amboy, New Jersey," caused by the alleged negligence of all the defendants in various particulars. The explosion was devastating and the magnitude and extent of the disaster is probably best illustrated by the fact that there were approximately 8,500 parties-plaintiff, most of them residents of New Jersey.

Process was served upon Roy F. Pierce, treasurer of the defendant company, who was concededly an "officer" of the defendant within the meaning of Rule 3:4-4(d), now R.R. 4:4-4(d), and a proper agent for service of process.

Isbrandtsen Company, Inc., hereinafter referred to as Isbrandtsen, is a corporation of the State of New York, with offices and principal place of business in New York City. For years it has been engaged as a common carrier in the steamship business. Its cargo vessels regularly ply between United States, European and Far Eastern ports; it

does not engage in inter-coastal shipping. Between May 1950 and July 1952 it owned and operated 15 cargo vessels, of which 12 were used in "line service," that is, regularly scheduled sailings in the Far East, round-the-world service, and in trans-Atlantic service. In that service it operated, during the period, six additional vessels which were either time-chartered or bare-boat-chartered.

Of the three remaining vessels owned by it, one, during the period in question, was operated in the transportation of cattle between the United States and foreign ports, and the remaining two were engaged in tramp bulk service. The appellant also acted as general agent in the operation of some 20 other vessels plying between the United States and foreign ports or between foreign ports exclusively. Isbrandtsen was not licensed to do business in the State of New Jersey, as provided by statute, nor did it have an office, telephone, records, or bank accounts within the State.

The company practically concedes that prior to May 1, 1950 and only a few weeks before the explosion it was "present" in New Jersey, using docking facilities at Pier 3, Hoboken, as the terminal for its vessels. It asserts this arrangement terminated May 1, 1950 and that cargo was delivered to the last ship docking there by May 16, 1950. ...


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