Thursday, February 21, 2013

Centre County Trial Court Rules in Favor of Consolidation in Post-Koken Case

The Centre County Court of Common Pleas has handed down a February 14, 2013 opinion in a Post-Koken case in favor of the consolidation of third party and UIM claims.

In the case of Murphy v. Hampton et al, No. 2012-3855 (Centre Co. Feb. 14, 2013 Grine, J.), the court reviewed a matter involving a lawsuit filed after a person was allegedly injured in an accident with a bus. The victim filed a lawsuit against the driver of the bus, the bus driver's employer, Centre Area Transportation Authority, and Nationwide, the Plaintiff's underinsured motorist (UIM) carrier.

The third party Defendants filed preliminary objections to the jointly filed Complaint. The third party Defendants made assertions of (1) improper joinder under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 2229(b) and (2) a need for severance under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(b) because they would be prejudiced by the introduction of insurance evidence at trial.

The trial court ruled in Murphy that the cases were not improperly joined as the causes of action arose out of the same occurrence and the same operative facts.  The court also noted that joinder avoided inefficiency and the delay attendant with what would be nearly two identical trials.  The court also noted that the joinder of the claims promoted judicial economy.

The trial court also found that severance was not required and the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence 411 under the circumstances presented.

The preliminary objections of the third party Defendants were therefore overruled.

This decision out of Centre County is consistent with a prior 2012 Centre County decision in the case of Fennessey v. Sweeney and State Farm.

Anyone desiring a copy of Murphy v. Hampton may contact me at

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg law firm of Schmidt Kramer, as well as Attorney Paul Oven of the Moosic law firm of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price for bringing this case to my attention.  I thank Attorney Bill Mabius of the Pennsylvania Association For Justice for providing me with a copy of the opinion.

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