Legal Memorandum: Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Issue: May an action that is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction be transferred or re-commenced in a Pennsylvania state court?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Transfer or recommence a case; Lack of subject matter jurisdiction; Statute of limitations
Jurisdiction: Federal, Pennsylvania
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(a) and (b); 2 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(b)(2); 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103
Date: 05/01/2010

Under Pennsylvania law, a Plaintiff’s action should survive even if the federal court dismisses for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and even if the statute of limitations has expired, as long as the initial action was filed in within the limitations period.  See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5103; Williams v. F.L. Smithe Mach. Co., 577 A.2d 907, 909 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1990).  In Williams the court explained:

It is evident from the clear and unambiguous language of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(a) and (b), that if a matter is originally filed within the statute of limitations in the federal court, but is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction by the federal court, the litigant may then effect a transfer of the action to state court by complying with the provisions set forth in 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(b)(2).  The state court will treat the matter as if originally filed in the state court if the litigant complies with the dictates of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(b)(2).  Thus, in the present case, if appellants complied with 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103(b)(2), the trial court must deem their action as filed on the date it was first filed in the federal court, September 19, 1988, and thus within the applicable statute of limitations.


It is also clear from a reading of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5103 that, in order for the statute to apply to prevent a litigant from losing the opportunity to litigate his case on the […]