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A group of Turkish clothing manufacturers that hired a Pennsylvania woman to work as its marketing representative in the United States and had nearly daily contact with her by phone for 14 years can be hauled into court in Pennsylvania even though none of its corporate officers ever traveled there, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled. In his 26-page opinion in Erinc v. Karavil, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell found that while the Turkish companies claimed not to have an American office, they had printed business cards that listed Julie Erinc’s address in Oxford, Pa. Dalzell found that Erinc met her burden of showing that Aron Karavil and the companies he controls have had sufficient contacts with Pennsylvania to satisfy the requirements of “specific jurisdiction.” But Dalzell found that Erinc failed to meet either the specific or general jurisdiction test for her claims against Flight Eagle Ltd., a British company owned by Karavil’s son, Eli Karavil. Attorney Margaret Sherry Lurio filed the suit on behalf of Erinc, whose relationship with the Turkish companies began in 1986. Erinc claims that as a result of her marketing efforts, Karavil’s companies developed a wholesale market in the United States and Canada with customers that included such wholesale chains as Sears, The Gap, J.C. Penney, Sears, Marshall Fields, Kmart and Macy’s. By 1998, the suit says, Karavil’s companies enjoyed annual revenues of more than $52 million through North American outlets. Erinc claims her exclusive agreements with the Turkish companies required that she be paid a commission of 3 percent on every item of clothing sold in the United States or Canada. The suit says Karavil has breached the contract by failing to make the full requisite payments in 1998 and 1999 and failing to pay anything at all in 2000. Karavil’s lawyers, Jerome J. Shestack and Virginia Lynn Hogben of Philadelphia-based Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, moved to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. But Dalzell found that “Karavil, or other representatives of the apparel companies, communicated with Erinc by telephone almost every day.” The Turkish companies also sent fabric samples to Erinc at her Pennsylvania address for her to use in the solicitation of customers and wired funds to Erinc’s account in a Pennsylvania bank, Dalzell found. “Defendants’ contacts with Pennsylvania go beyond retaining and working with a marketing representative in Pennsylvania. Defendants themselves advertised Erinc’s Pennsylvania address,” Dalzell wrote. Karavil also printed business cards designating Erinc as a representative of his companies, Dalzell noted, and the cards displayed both Erinc’s address and the address of the Turkish factory. Dalzell concluded that the cards implied that Erinc’s address was the company’s Pennsylvania office. Although Karavil insisted that his companies have never delivered clothing directly to Pennsylvania, Dalzell found that Erinc had uncontested evidence that they did. “There is no question that the defendants shipped their apparel directly into this Commonwealth,” Dalzell wrote. In contract cases, Dalzell found that there is “no mechanical test” for determining whether a defendant has had sufficient minimum contacts with a jurisdiction, but instead that the U.S. Supreme Court has instructed judges to employ “a highly realistic approach that recognizes that a contract is ordinarily but an intermediate step serving to tie up prior business negotiations with future consequences which themselves are the real object of the business transaction.” And even when there are minimum contacts, judges must also consider other factors to assure the exercise of jurisdiction accords with fair play and substantial justice including the burden on the defendant; the forum state’s interest in adjudicating the dispute; the plaintiff’s interest in convenient and effective relief; the interstate judicial system’s interest in the efficient resolution of controversies; and the shared interest of the states in the furtherance of fundamental substantive social policies. Dalzell concluded that Erinc satisfied her burden of establishing minimum contacts by showing that Karavil’s companies “purposely directed their activity toward the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Karavil, he said, “entered into a marketing contract with Erinc, a resident of Pennsylvania, while knowing that she would live in Pennsylvania and implement the contract from that state.” Over the 14-year relationship, he said, Karavil’s companies reaffirmed their contacts with Pennsylvania through almost daily telephone calls and mail and wire transfers. “The defendants had little or no market in the United States before entering into a marketing agreement with Erinc. The marketing agreement was executed and conceived to enable the defendants’ business in the United States to flourish,” Dalzell wrote. “We find that the defendants have purposely directed their activities at Pennsylvania, availing themselves of the benefits and protections of its laws, and consequently may be called to answer in Pennsylvania for suits arising from those activities.” Since Erinc established the minimum contacts, Dalzell found that the burden was on the defendants to “present a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.” Dalzell found they failed to meet the burden. “Aron Karavil is apparently fluent in the English language. The defendant entities have reported over $52 million in gross revenue in 1998 and, as far as we can tell, are financially capable of defending this foreign action,” Dalzell wrote. “Most importantly, should we decline to assume jurisdiction and leave it to the plaintiff to re-file in Turkey, we would not solve the problem of having a foreign national as litigant, but just delay the plaintiff’s search for relief.” But Dalzell found that Erinc failed to establish jurisdiction over Karavil’s son’s company, Flight Eagle, by alleging that it has delivered apparel to United States customers as an intermediary of the Turkish companies. “Even if this were true, then Flight Eagle’s triangulated relationship with Pennsylvania — sending things to Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the United States at Aron Karavil’s entities’ request — does not constitute purposeful direction toward Pennsylvania for specific jurisdiction to exist,” Dalzell wrote.

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