Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Certain Courts In Pennsylvania Earn No. 1 Ranking on National Judicial Hellholes List (Tied With Georgia)

 Here is a LINK to the 2023-2024 listing by the ATR Foundation of its top identified "Judicial Hellholes" in America on which list certain courts in Pennsylvania have been listed as tied for No. 1 in the entire United States.

Here is a LINK to an article in the Pennsylvania Record on the topic.

These Pennsylvania Courts were No. 1 in 2020-2022 before dropping down to No. 2 for the 2022-2023 year.  According to the ATR Foundation, those certain Pennsylvania Courts have now earned the right to again be listed back up on top of the list again this year, tied with Georgia.

Application of Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens to Bounce a Case Out of Philadelphia Affirmed

In the case of Smith v. CMS West, Inc., No. 1002-EDA-2022 (Pa. Super. Oct. 30, 2023 Bowes, J., Stabile, J., and Pelligrini, J.) (Op. by Stabile, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed an Order entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County transferring a construction accident case from Philadelphia County to Butler County under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was allegedly injured while working at a construction site in Butler, Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, the Plaintiffs filed suit in Philadelphia County.

Various Defendants filed Preliminary Objections challenging both personal jurisdiction and venue. Most of the Preliminary Objections filed by the Defendants were overruled. Thereafter, other Defendants jointly filed a Petition to Transfer Venue under the doctrine of forum non conveniens pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1006(d)(1), seeking a transfer of the case to Butler County.

According to the Opinion, the Defendants produced affidavits/certifications of four (4) witnesses who all explained that traveling from Butler County to Philadelphia County would present as a hardship.

The Plaintiff was permitted to submit three (3) deposition transcripts and an affidavit to establish that Philadelphia was a more convenient forum.

After considering the entire record, the trial court found that the certain witnesses identified in the Petition for Transfer would suffer substantial hardships both on a monetary basis and/or due to medical reasons.

The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that Philadelphia County was an oppressive and vexatious forum in the context of this particular case. As such, as ordered by the trial court, the case was transferred to Butler County.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: Article: “Superior Court Breaks String of Plaintiff-Side Forum Rulings, Upholding Case’s Move From Phila.” by Aleeza Furman of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Nov. 1, 2023).

Monday, December 4, 2023


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Friday, December 1, 2023

Summary Judgment Granted In Slip and Fall Case Due to Lack of Evidence of Actual or Constructive Notice of Spill

In the case of Steffe v. Wal-Mart Supercenter, No. 1:21-CV-01605 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 25, 2023 Wilson, J.), the court granted summary judgment in a slip and fall case.

In this case, the Plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell as a result of a puddle of water in the store's bathroom.

The court ruled that the Plaintiff’s slip and fall claim failed because no basis beyond speculation established that the Defendant had any notice of the allegedly dangerous condition on its property.

The court found that there was no actual evidence established in terms of a way for the alleged spill to have been caused by any of the Defendant’s employees.

The court additionally noted that the Defendant had reasonable preventative measures in place such that there was no basis to infer actual notice from the facts of this particular alleged existence of a spill.

The court stated that, without any evidence as to how the spill happened, how long it had been present, or any evidence that would show that it had been present for a long period of time, the Plaintiff was unable to establish constructive notice on the part of the defendant store.

As such, summary judgment was granted.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I thank Attorney James A. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of image:  Photo by Fabio Bracht from www.unsplash.com.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Superior Court Refuses To Create a General Duty of Care To Prevent the Transmission of Contagious Diseases Such as COVID-19

In the non-precedential case of Reish v. Visiting Angels, No. 2924 EDA 2022 (Pa. Super. Sept. 21, 2023 Nichols, J., Olson, J., and McLaughlin, J.) (Op. by Nichols, J.)[Non-precedential], the Superior Court affirmed a trial court’s sustaining Preliminary Objections dismissing a case after finding that there is no general duty of care among the general public to avoid transmitting contagious diseases such as COVID-19.

The court noted that, while medical professionals may owe a duty of care to third persons to advise a patient to take precautions against spreading contagious diseases, that duty does not extend to non-medical laypersons.

The Superior Court noted that negligence cannot be invoked to create a duty where one does not exist in the first place. The court also noted that it was reluctant to create new affirmative duties under the circumstances presented in this case.

The court also noted that the risk of spreading illnesses while providing services to the elderly is a foreseeable risk. The appellate court asserted that to otherwise impose a duty in this regard would require a myriad of precautions without clear guidance from existing law.

Accordingly, the Superior Court noted that it would improper for it to treat COVID-19-related mask mandates as establishing personal liability against individuals.

The court otherwise noted that such policy determinations in this context are generally not within the purview of the judiciary and are best determined by other branches of government.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I thank Attorney James A. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Defense Verdict Upheld Where Evidence Was Disputed On Whether Plaintiff Was Injured At All

In the non-precedential decision by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in the case of Smith v. Nguyen, No. 1312 EDA 2022 (Pa. Super. March 28, 2023 Panella, J., Bender, P.J.E., and Sullivan, J.) (Op. by Sullivan, J.), the court affirmed a trial court’s denial of a Plaintiff’s post-trial motions seeking a new trial after a jury found that a Defendant driver did not cause injury to a Plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident case.

After reviewing the record before it, the appellate court found that the trial court did not err by failing to grant a new trial under an argument that the jury’s finding of no causation of any harm was against the weight of the evidence.

In so ruling, the Superior Cour noted that the jury’s finding of no liability on causation for the Plaintiff’s injuries confirmed that the jury had rejected the Plaintiff’s expert witness’ testimony.

The court noted that the Plaintiff’s experts and the Defendant’s experts disputed one another on the issue of causation.  

The court also noted that the fact that the defense radiologist expert did not dispute the Plaintiff’s “subjective” reports of pain resulting from the collision did not constitute an agreement by the defense expert that the collision caused injury.

The court otherwise found that the jury’s decision that the Defendant’s negligence did not cause harm to the Plaintiff could properly have been based upon the evidence that the collision occurred at a relatively low speed, that the Plaintiff had pre-existing similar problems and degenerative conditions and/or that the Plaintiff did not complain of neck pain until four (4) years after the collision.

Overall, the court found that the Plaintiff did not show that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the jury’s verdict did not shock the judicial conscience given that the post-trial claim was found to lack merit, the trial court’s denial of the same was affirmed on appeal.

This decision is also notable for the court’s ruling that a party is not entitled to adverse inference related to the failure of an opposing party to call a witness at trial where that witness was equally available to each party to be called as a witness.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this non-precedential decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Paul Gambone of the King of Prussia office of the Forry Ullman law firm for bringing this decision to my attention.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Sending a Complaint to Insurance Adjuster Does Not Amount to Proper Service of Process

In the case of London-Walker v. Walgreens Family of Cos., No. 23-CV-2868 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2023, Kenney, J.), the court dismissed the trip and fall case under service of process issues raised by the defense.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint but did not serve it for five (5) years.

The Plaintiff only served the Complaint after receiving a Notice of Proposed Termination issued by the court of common pleas.

In rejecting one of the arguments by the Plaintiff, the court pointed to the well-settled rule that informally emailing a copy of a Complaint to an insurance adjuster does not constitute valid service.

The court noted that, absent any evidence that the actual Defendant learned of the lawsuit, the action was subject to dismissal under the Lamp v. Heyman line of cases as being barred by the statute of limitations.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's companion Order can be viewed HERE.

I thank Attorney James A. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.