Monday, April 16, 2018

Judge Nealon Addresses "Regularly Conducting Business Element" of Improper Venue Challenge

The intersection of quality and quantity in the context of an improper venue challenge was recently addressed by Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas in the case of Espinosa v. J & J Limousine Service, No. 18-CV-0302 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Feb. 26, 2018 Nealon, J.).

In addressing the quantity and quality of contacts by a Defendant in a particular county, the court in Espinosa found that venue in this personal injury matter was improper in Lackawanna County where the Defendant conducted less than 1% of its commercial activities within the county.  As such, Judge Nealon transferred the case to Lehigh County where the accident occurred, which was also the county in which the Plaintiffs resided and where the Defendant regularly conducted business.  

According to the Opinion, the Defendant operated a passenger van which transported the Plaintiff to a park in Lehigh County.   While the parties were in Lehigh County, the door of the passenger van allegedly swung open, which caused one of the Plaintiffs to fall forward and allegedly sustain personal injuries.

The record before the court confirmed that the Defendant's principal place of business was in Lehigh County.  

The Defendants filed a Preliminary Objection asserting improper venue in Lackawanna County and asserted that the only connection with that county was that the Plaintiffs’ attorney’s law office was located in that county.  

In response, the Plaintiff pointed to the Defendant’s website which advertised that its services included multiple locations within Lackawanna County.   However, the court noted that other information presented in the record before the court revealed that the work by the Defendant within Lackawanna County was substantially less than 1% of the Defendant’s annual transportation business. 

The court accepted the Defendant’s arguments that its contacts within Lackawanna County did not occur with sufficient frequencies to satisfy the quantity component of the venue standard.   The court’s review of case law did not reveal any case where a court had found that the venue standard was met where Defendant’s contacts within a county were less than 1% of the total revenues.  

Accordingly, Judge Nealon ruled that the Defendant’s business activities in Lackawanna County were not sufficiently continuous or habitual to quality as to “regularly conducting business” in Lackawanna County.

The Defendant’s Preliminary Objections were sustained and the case was transferred to Lehigh County.

Anyone wishing to review this Opinion by Judge Nealon may click this LINK.

To review other Tort Talk posts on cases applying the Quantity vs. Quality Test for proper venue, click this LINK.

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