On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County.
Bischoff, Petrella and Brody. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brody, J.A.D.
Defendant William Brown (William) allowed his wife defendant Marguerite Brown (Marguerite) to take his automobile from their home in New Jersey and drive it to Pennsylvania for her own purposes. Plaintiff Larry Stroman claims he was injured in an accident Marguerite had with the automobile while she was in Pennsylvania. Stroman and his wife sued defendants in Pennsylvania where they recovered a judgment by default in the amount of $110,000 for damages arising out of the accident. This appeal is from a judgment entered below on the Pennsylvania judgment. The principal issue is whether the Pennsylvania court had personal jurisdiction over William so that we must give full faith and credit to its judgment. We conclude that William's action in letting Marguerite use his automobile to drive to Pennsylvania was not a sufficient contact with that state to enable it to exercise jurisdiction over him.
Plaintiffs purported to serve process upon defendants by complying with 75 P.S. § 2001 (Supp.1971), the applicable portion of Pennsylvania's long-arm statute then in effect. It provided in relevant part:
[A]ny nonresident of this Commonwealth, being the operator or owner of any motor vehicle . . . or being a person in whose behalf a motor vehicle . . . is being operated whether or not such person is the operator or owner, who shall accept the privilege extended by the laws of this Commonwealth to nonresident
operators and owners of operating a motor vehicle [shall make the Secretary of the Commonwealth his agent for service of process].
There being no appellate court authority in Pennsylvania, it becomes our task to construe the statute. Cf. James v. Francesco, 61 N.J. 480, 485-486 (1972). The statute's reach, as we view it, includes any nonresident owner of a motor vehicle operated in Pennsylvania with his consent. See Wallace v. Frieday, 331 F. Supp. 420, 421 (W.D.Pa.1971). William is in that category. We must therefore decide whether the Pennsylvania court, acting under the statute, reached beyond the constitutional limit of its jurisdictional grasp. The question was expressly left open in James v. Francesco, supra, 61 N.J. at 490, a case that dealt with a similar North Carolina statute.
In personam jurisdiction analyses begin with International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945), in which the Court held that a state court may, consistent with due process, exercise jurisdiction over an absent defendant only if he had certain "minimum contacts" with the state "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" 326 U.S. at 316, 66 S. Ct. at 158, 90 L. Ed. at 102.
Our research and the thorough briefs of both counsel have turned up only two cases directly on point. Applying the International Shoe test, they come to opposite conclusions. Clemens v. District Court, 154 Colo. 176, 390 P. 2d 83 (Sup.Ct.1964), held its own statute unconstitutional. Davis v. St. Paul-Mercury Indemnity Company, 294 F.2d 641 (4 Cir.1961), held constitutional the North Carolina statute referred to in James, supra. The Restatement supports the Davis view in a comment:
[O]ne who permits another to drive his automobile into a state is subject to the judicial jurisdiction of that state as to causes of action arising from the operation of the automobile in the state. [ Restatement, Conflicts of Law 2d, § 37, comment a at 158 (1971)]
Davis and the Restatement emphasize the dangerousness of a motor vehicle in concluding that it is ...