Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Application of Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens Results in Transfer of Case from Philadelphia to Chester County

In the case of Ranck v. Coatesville Little League, Inc., September Term 2017 No. 01990 (C.P. Phila. Co. July 25, 2018 Patrick, J.), the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted a Defendant’s Petition to Transfer Venue based upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens.  

This matter arose out of an incident when the Plaintiff was allegedly injured while volunteering at a concession stand during a little league baseball game and a fryer full of hot cooking oil fell upon her, causing injuries.  Although the incident apparently occurred in Chester County, the Plaintiff filed suit in Philadelphia County.
The Defendant moved to transfer venue based upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens.  

The Plaintiff initially asserted that the Defendant waived this argument regarding improper venue because it did not raise the issue in Preliminary Objections.  

The court explained that the issues of improper venue and forum non conveniens were two separate and distinct issues.  

The court reiterated the rule of law that the question of improper venue could be waived if not raised by way of Preliminary Objections as required by the Rules of Civil Procedure.

However, the issue of forum non conveniens was not waived by the failure to assert the same in Preliminary Objections.  

The court noted that the issue of forum non conveniens was properly raised by way of petition under Pa.R.C.P. 1006(d)(1).  As such, the court found that the Defendant’s failure to raise the doctrine of forum non conveniens by way of Preliminary Objections did not serve to defeat its request for relief in this regard.  

Turning to the merits of the motion, the court held that venue in Philadelphia County would be both vexatious and oppressive under the circumstances. The court noted that none of the parties resided or did business in Philadelphia. The incident did not occur in Philadelphia.   All of the Plaintiff’s medical providers and other witnesses were located outside of Philadelphia. The court also stated that it was foreseeable that a visit to the ball park in Chester County where the incident happened may prove necessary for the jury to obtain a full understanding of the case at trial. 

The court even ruled that, given the Plaintiff’s claim of extensive physical injuries, venue in Philadelphia County would be oppressive to the Plaintiff as well in terms of having to travel to that county for the proceedings.  

Given that the record before the court confirmed that the parties’ connection to Philadelphia County were tenuous, the court found that a transfer of the case to Chester County based upon the doctrine forum non conveniens was warranted.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinion” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 14, 2018).

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