Danziger & De Llano LLP v. Morgan Verkamp LLC, No. 19-1986 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Danziger, a Texas law firm, claims that it referred potential qui tam clients (including Epp) to an Ohio firm, Morgan Verkamp and had an oral contract to collect one-third of the attorney’s fees from the Epp suit. Epp retained Morgan Verkamp but never promised Danziger a referral fee. After years of litigation, the U.S. Government intervened and settled for hundreds of millions of dollars. Morgan Verkamp collected several million dollars in attorney’s fees. Danziger sought the referral fee in Pennsylvania state court by filing a “writ of summons,” which allows a plaintiff to seek discovery before filing a complaint. Danziger finally filed a complaint. Morgan Verkamp removed the case to federal court before the deadline for filing preliminary objections, then sought dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, for a transfer to Ohio. Danziger suggested a transfer to Texas. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. There is no specific jurisdiction because Danziger’s claims neither arise out of nor relate to Morgan Verkamp’s activities in Pennsylvania. Nor did Morgan Verkamp consent to personal jurisdiction by participating in pre-complaint discovery; Pennsylvania law does not let defendants object to jurisdiction until the plaintiff files a complaint. A defendant who removes to federal court does not thereby consent to personal jurisdiction. Danziger does not need a transfer; it could timely refile its claims in another forum.