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Maro v. Potash

Decided: June 19, 1987.

DORIS MARO AND DR. ROBERT J. MARO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EDWARD CHRISTOPHER POTASH, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FOOTBALL CLUB, INC., SPECTAGUARD, INC., NILON BROTHERS, INC., AND CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, DEFENDANTS



Hyland, J.s.c.

Hyland

This motion presents the interesting jurisdictional question whether a New Jersey court can entertain an action by New Jersey plaintiffs for a tort committed in Philadelphia, Pa. during a Philadelphia Eagles -- Atlanta Falcons professional football game.

Plaintiffs allege that Mrs. Doris Maro was assaulted by the defendant Edward Potash (coincidentally also a New Jersey resident) at Veterans' Stadium on November 10, 1985, and subsequently harassed by him on a later date while the plaintiffs were in attendance by virtue of their being season tickets holders.

In addition to Mr. Potash, plaintiffs have also sued the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, Inc., Spectaguard (charged with the responsibility for security at the stadium), Nilon Brothers, Inc. (refreshment and souvenir vendor) and the City of Philadelphia (owner of the stadium). The specific allegations regarding Nilon set out a "dram shop" cause of action concerning the serving of alcoholic beverages to Mr. Potash while he was also a spectator at the stadium.

Nilon now moves to dismiss the complaint as to it for lack of in personam jurisdiction, since it has insufficient "minimum contacts" in New Jersey. I have deferred ruling on this motion until all discovery on this particular issue has been completed, and counsel have now cooperated in making a full record for purposes of my ruling. The following facts are stipulated or not disputed.

The stadium is owned by the City of Philadelphia and is the predominant outdoor sports facility in the so-called "Delaware Valley" area of southern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. Its major tenants are the National Football League Eagles and National Baseball League Phillies, and it also provides home game status for Temple University football and an assortment of entertainment activities including rock music concerts. Over three million patrons annually attend these events, and it is undisputed that a substantial number of these spectators are New Jersey residents.

The stadium complex is located approximately three miles from the New Jersey-Pennsylvania boundary in the Delaware River, and it is readily accessible to New Jersey residents via the Walt Whitman Bridge and a series of interstate highways. In fact, the traffic congestion attendant upon major events spreads out across the bridge and clogs New Jersey traffic arteries even for those drivers who are traveling elsewhere. Ironically, it takes less time for many South Jersey residents to travel to the stadium than it does for patrons residing within the Philadelphia city limits. At night, the glow of the stadium floodlights is clearly visible from municipalities in Camden and Gloucester Counties.

At the time of the incident in 1985, Nilon was the exclusive operator of the general concessions (as well as the Stadium Club restaurant) located at the stadium under a fifteen year lease, and it paid 35.7% of all its gross receipts from the operation of the general concessions to Philadelphia. During the lease, the city has received from Nilon millions of dollars in

direct revenues from its sale of food, beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), pennants, programs and all types of souvenirs and novelties.

It is not disputed that massive marketing and advertising programs are undertaken each year by the sports franchises and entertainment promoters in order to draw maximum crowds to the stadium. These efforts do not stop at the New Jersey-Pennsylvania boundary, since they are conveyed by television (including cable located in New Jersey), radio and print advertising as well as promotional techniques of all kinds. For instance, the Camden County Bar Association typically sponsors a "Night at the Phillies" for local lawyers and their families, at which time the products sold by Nilon are consumed in great numbers. It should also be noted that the beer, hotdog and other brands of refreshments sold by Nilon are extensively marketed by these companies in the Delaware Valley area. Although Nilon does not directly participate in any of this advertising and promotion, it is clearly the direct beneficiary of such interstate efforts. It is conceded that its profits are in direct proportion to the volume of activity at the stadium turnstiles.

Acknowledging all of the above, Nilon contends it still lacks sufficient activity in this state to constitute the "minimum contacts" required for jurisdiction as established in the landmark case of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945). Defendant Nilon Bros., Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation and the general partner in the Pennsylvania partnership known as Nilon Brothers Enterprises. During the years it operated the concessions at the stadium, it purchased all of its main supplies, including food and beverages, from distributors in Pennsylvania or Georgia. All of its employees were hired through a union hiring hall operated by Philadelphia Local 274 of the Hotel, Restaurant and ...


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