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Patel v. Karnavati America, LLC

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 9, 2014

RAJNIKANT PATEL and RASIKA PATEL, his wife, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
KARNAVATI AMERICA, LLC, CADILA PHARMACEUTICAL, LTD, SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC, USA, INC., Defendants, and KARNAVATI ENGINEERING, LTD, Defendant-Appellant, and GLOBEPHARMA, INC., Defendant-Respondent

Argued September 10, 2014.

Approved for Publication October 9, 2014.

Page 837

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-8317-10.

Daniel C. Fleming argued the cause for appellant ( Wong Fleming, P.C., attorneys; Mr. Fleming and Mark W. Thompson, on the brief).

Brian M. Gerstein argued the cause for respondents Rajnikant and Rasika Patel ( Harkavy, Goldman, Goldman & Gerstein, attorneys; Mr. Gerstein, on the brief).

Larry E. Hardcastle, II, argued the cause for respondent GlobePharma, Inc. ( Lanciano & Associates, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Hardcastle and Michael W. Hoffman, on the brief).

Before Judges LIHOTZ, ESPINOSA and ROTHSTADT. The opinion of the court was delivered by LIHOTZ, P.J.A.D.

OPINION

Page 838

[437 N.J.Super. 419] LIHOTZ, P.J.A.D.

We examine whether the Law Division properly exercised personal jurisdiction over defendant Karnavati Engineering, Ltd. (Karnavati), a corporation located in India.[1] Plaintiff Rajnikant Patel[2] alleged the defective design of a RIMEK UNIK-1 tablet press machine (the machine) manufactured in India by Karnavati caused him to suffer personal injuries while working on the New Jersey premises of his employer, Neil Laboratories/ Advent Pharmaceuticals (Neil Labs). On our leave granted, Karnavati appeals from the Law Division's December 19, 2013 order denying its motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of jurisdiction. R. 4:6-2(b). Karnavati argues the motion judge's finding of minimum [437 N.J.Super. 420] contacts is factually flawed leading to an erroneous legal conclusion. We agree and reverse.

The recital of the arduous procedural history detailing plaintiff's efforts to join and serve parties and proceed with his suit is not necessary to our discussion of whether New Jersey has jurisdiction over Karnavati. We limit our discussion to those facts found in the motion record tat are relevant to our analysis.

Plaintiff resides in Middlesex County and is employed by Neil Labs, working at its facility in East Windsor. Plaintiff suffered " severe personal injuries" at the facility on November 4, 2008, when a towel he was using to clean the machine while it was running, caught and pulled his left hand into the machine. Plaintiff alleges " [t]he safety interlocks [on the machine] were either bypassed and/or inoperable." Among the claims included in his complaint are: the machine was " defectively designed, manufactured, and/or maintained, causing same to fail" ; express and implied warranties were breached; negligence occurred in the " design, manufacture, sale, distribution, inspection, maintenance and/or repair" of the machine; and the failure to warn of the machine's unreasonably

Page 839

dangerous propensities caused injury.

Karnavati moved to dismiss the complaint in lieu of filing an answer. Jurisdictional discovery was conducted.[3]

Mukund Modi, Karnavati's Senior Vice President, filed a certification averring Karnavati, which manufactures tablet press machines used in the pharmaceutical industry, was incorporated and operates in India. Although it manufactured the machine asserted to cause plaintiff's injuries, Karnavati never shipped its machines to New Jersey. In fact, since its incorporation, Karnavati only shipped one product to the United States, when it sent a different device to Maryland, in December 2003. Modi certified Karnavati is not registered to do business in New Jersey; does not advertise in New Jersey; has never engaged in any sales in [437 N.J.Super. 421] New Jersey; has never solicited business from or paid taxes to the state; has never attended trade shows or conferences " for the purposes of displaying its tablet press machines, in New Jersey or elsewhere in the United States" ; and has never sent its employees to New Jersey for any reason. Additionally, Karnavati never owned, used, or possessed real or personal property in New Jersey; owned or controlled any state bank accounts; or maintained insurance for products liability conduct in the state.

Karnavati sold the machine in question to GlobePharma, Inc. (Globe) in 2002. Globe is a closely held corporation, with a place of business in New Brunswick. Globe " design[s], manufacture[s], and s[ells] . . . unit-dose samplers for powders used in pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement manufacturing[,]" as well as " new and used pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement machinery such as . . . table-top rotary tablet press machines."

The purchase order for the subject machine was prepared by Globe and sent to Karnavati. Globe sought two machines described as:

Double Rotary Tablet Press[es], Model KEB-4/35, with 35 stations for IPT, standard B tooling, GMP model with sturdy acrylic guards AC variable speed drive, gravity feed system, manual lubrication system, safety interlocks and the modifications ...

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