Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Post-Koken Case Transferred Out of Philadelphia Due to Improper Venue

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Allen L. Tereshko has issued yet another Post-Koken decision.

On July 14, 2010, Judge Tereshko issued an Order, without Opinion, in the case of Pippett v. Radu and State Farm, March Term 2010, No. 3305 (Phila. Co. July 14, 2010, Tereshko, J.), in which considered a motion for reconsideration of the court's prior overruling of the tortfeasor's preliminary objections on the issue of improper venue.

According to Attorney Philip A. Ryan of the Philadelphia law firm of German, Gallagher & Murtagh, defense counsel for the tortfeasor, this litigation arose out of a Delaware County motor vehicle accident and all of the individuals involved resided in Delaware County as well.

The Plaintiff joined State Farm in the litigation on a UIM claim (State Farm's policy language requires that the UIM lawsuit be pursued in the same suit as the claim against the tortfeasor). The Plaintiff filed in Philadelphia County presumably due to State Farm's presence in that county.

Generally speaking, under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1006, proper venue for a lawsuit involving a motor vehicle accident is in the county where the accident happened or where the defendant resides.

After the Plaintiff filed suit in Philadelphia in the Pippett matter, Defense counsel for the tortfeasor filed preliminary objections asserting improper venue and argued that Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1006(c), pertaining to proper venue in cases involving multiple defendants, only allowed venue in the different counties for the different defendants if such defendants were potentially jointly and severally liable. which is not the case with a tortfeasor and a UIM carrier named as defendants in the same suit.

Defense counsel more specifically asserted that since State Farm was not potentially a joint tortfeasor with the defendant driver and could not be found by the jury to be jointly liable with the defendant for the full amount of the verdict. As such, even if State Farm did business in Philadelphia County, venue was still not proper in Philadelphia County for the defendant driver who resided in Delaware County and was involved in an accident that occurred in Delaware County.

Although Judge Tereshko originally denied the tortfeasor defendant's Preliminary Objections, upon revisiting the matter via the motion for reconsideration, the Judge issued this July 14, 2010 Order granting the Preliminary Objections and ordered the matter transferred to Delaware County.

Tort Talkers may recall that Judge Tereshko previously faced this issue in the case of Thomas v. Titan Auto Ins., Nationwide Ins, Jones, and Briel, March Term 2010, No. 03050 (Phila. Co. May 10, 2010, Tereshko, J.). In Thomas, the judge severed the third party liability claim filed against an owner and operator of a vehicle from the uninsured (UM) motorist claim against one of the carrier defendants and also transferred both claims out of Philadelphia County and to Montgomery County on an improper venue argument.

The Thomas case is on its way up to the Superior Court but I believe it is still in the stage whereby the trial court has to issue a Rule 1925 Opinion to explain how it came to its decision. Accordingly, we may get an Opinion on this issue in the near future after all.


I send a nod of thanks to Attorney Philip A. Ryan of the Philadelphia office of German, Gallagher & Murtagh for bringing this case to my attention.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Order may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

No comments:

Post a Comment