Monday, July 25, 2011

Pennsylvania Superior Court Enters Decision in Post-Koken Venue Case

On July 25, 2011, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued its opinion in the Post-Koken case of Sehl v. Neff, No. 3438 EDA 2009 (Pa.Super. July 25, 2011 Olson, Freedburg, Colville, JJ.)(opinion by Freedburg) affirming the trial court decision that venue was improper in Philadelphia.

This is the post-Koken venue case in which the UIM policy did not have a venue selection clause and the Plaintiff filed suit in Philadelphia County even though the tortfeasor Defendant did not reside in Philadelphia County and even though the accident did not occur in Philadelphia County.

The Superior Court rejected the Plaintiff's contention that since the defendant UIM carrier could be sued in any county in Pennsylvania under the venue rule of Pa.R.C.P. 1006 on the basis that the carrier conducted business in every county, venue for the claims against the defendant tortfeasor could also be joined and filed in any county along with that UIM claim.

In so ruling, the Superior Court also rejected the Plaintiff's contention that the defendant driver and the UIM carrier could be considered to be jointly and severally liable under the venue rules so as to support the Plaintiff's effort to sue both parties in a single county of the Plaintiff's choice.  To the contrary, the Superior Court agreed with the trial court's ruling that the tort claims against the defendant driver were separate and distinct from the contract claims against the UIM carrier.

As such, the court found that the exception under Rule 1006(c)(1) could not be relied upon to support the Plaintiff's venue selection in this matter.  That exception allows an action to be brought against all defendants in a county where venue is appropriate for one of the defendants "in an action to enforce a joint or joint and several liability against two or more defendants."

I wrote the amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute in favor of the position that venue is not proper in Philadelphia under the circumstances presented. If you wish to review that Brief, it may be accessed by clicking on the link in the JDSupra.com box down on the right-hand column of this blog.

Congrats to the underlying defense attorney, John McGrath, Esquire of the Philadelphia law office of Palmer & Barr, P.C. for this win.

Click here to view the Pennsylvania Superior Court's decision in Sehl v. Neff online:  http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/a13026_11.pdf

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