Monday, November 17, 2014

Supreme Court's Revised Forum Non Conveniens Standard Utilized by Superior Court for First Time

In its recent decision in the case of Lee v. Bower Lewis Thrower Architects, 2014 Pa.Super. 240 (Pa. Super. Oct. 22, 2014 Gantman, P.J., Bender, P.J.E., and Platt, J.)(Op. by Gantman, P.J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge’s ruling granting a Defendant’s Motion to Transfer under the doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens.  

This case represents one of the first appellate decisions applying the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent Forum Non Conveniens ruling in the case of Bractic v. Rubendall. [To review the prior Tort Talk post on the Bratic case along with a link to that decision, please click HERE.]. 

In this motor vehicle accident case of Lee, which involved an accident that occurred in Centre County, Pennsylvania, the Defendants filed a Motion to Transfer the case to Centre County after the Plaintiff filed the suit in Philadelphia County.  

The Superior Court applied the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding in Bractic which clarified the standard of review with respect to a Motion for Transfer of Venue under the doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens.  

In Bractic, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified the standard for showing that a Plaintiff’s choice of venue was “vexatious and oppressive.”   The Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified that his standard did not require Defendants to provide detailed and specific information with respect to how the venue change would impact the parties.  Rather, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reaffirmed the rule that the trial courts have the broad discretion to use a balancing test of several factors, including but not limited to, location of witnesses, distance traveled, and court congestion, in deciding such motions.   Other factors to be considered included burden of travel, time out of office, disruption to business operations, difficulty in obtaining witnesses, and access to proof in general.  

In the Lee case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court stated that, while the moving party needed to offer support for its transfer motion in the form of detailed information in the record, the Bractic Supreme Court held that the standard did not require “any particular proof”.  

After reviewing the record before it, the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Lee affirmed the trial court’s transfer of the case from Philadelphia County to Centre County. 

Anyone wishing to review the Pennsylvania Superior Court's decision in the Lee case, may click this LINK. 

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