Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Forum Shopping by Plaintiffs

In the case of Zappala v. James Lewis Group, 2009 WL 2922862, PICS Case No. 09-1533 (Pa.Super. Sept. 11, 2009), the Superior Court held that a plaintiff could engage in forum shopping as long as it did not constitute vexatious conduct.

The Plaintiff, a Delaware County resident, was injured while working as a flag person at a construction site in Chester County. She sued some Defendants from Chester County and some Defendants from Philadelphia in a case filed in Philadelphia County.

The Philadelphia Defendants were eventually dismissed by an unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment filed on the grounds that such Defendants had no ownership interest or responsibility over the subject construction site. This would seem to suggest that such Defendants were joined in the matter simply for the purpose of securing venue in Philadelphia.

After the Philadelphia Defendants were dismissed the Chester County Defendants filed a motion to transfer venue under the forum non conveniens doctrine. The trial court granted this motion noting that the Plaintiff had engaged in forum shopping. However, the Superior Court reversed.

In its opinion, the Superior Court noted that the Plaintiff's selection of the venue of the forum is but one factor to consider in the analysis. The Court held that forum shopping by a plaintiff, in and of itself, is not forbidden under Pennsylvania law. Such forum shopping would only be found to be improper if the plaintiff was engaging in vexatious conduct, i.e. the purpose of choosing the forum was to harass a defendant.

Here, the Chester County Defendants only asserted inconvenience to the witnesses and parties along with other traditional arguments typically found in a forum non conveniens motion. There was no showing of vexatiousness or harassment. As such, the Superior Court reversed the trial court's granting of the motion.

A copy of this opinion can be purchased from the Pennsylvania Law Weekly's Instant Case Service by calling 1-800-276-7427 and giving the above PICS Case Number.

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