Friday, May 7, 2021

Judge Nealon Addresses Issues of Proper Venue for a Med Mal Case

In the case of Champi v. Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, No. 19-CV-1780 (C.P. Lacka. Co. April 14, 2021 Nealon, J.), the court addressed issues regarding proper venue in a medical malpractice action.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiffs filed this medical malpractice action against a Lackawanna County hospital as well as a Luzerne County hospital alleging negligent care at the different hospitals from the different counties.

The court noted that, under Pa. R.C.P. 1006(a)(1) and (c)(2), it is provided that a malpractice case may be brought in a county where the cause of action arose and that an action asserting joint and several liability against multiple Defendants may be filed in any county where venue may be laid against any Defendant. Under this rationale, venue was noted to have been proper in Lackawanna County at the time this suit was commenced.

In this matter, following the completion of discovery and the production of expert reports, the Plaintiffs voluntarily discontinued their malpractice claims against the Lackawanna County hospital three (3) months prior to trial and that hospital was dismissed as a named Defendant.

In response, the Luzerne County hospital filed a Petition seeking to transfer venue to Luzerne County on the basis that venue was no longer proper in Lackawanna County. In the alternative, that Luzerne County hospital filed a Petition to Transfer Venue to Luzerne County under forum non conveniens grounds under Pa. R.C.P. 1006(d)(1).

Judge Nealon noted that the questions of improper venue was determined by the identity of the parties at the time the case is initiated. For that reason, the court noted that a venue challenge is waived unless it is raised by Preliminary Objections. In this case, since venue was proper in Lackawanna County at the time the case was initiated, the court found that venue remain proper despite the voluntary dismissal of the only Lackawanna County Defendant.

Judge Nealon otherwise that, any concern or allegation that the Plaintiff may have initially included an uninvolved healthcare provider as a named Defendant in order to secure proper venue in a particular or desired forum is adequately addressed by the Certificate of Merit requirements which were designed to confirm that the claims filed were of arguable merit.

On the issue of the petition to the court to transfer the case under the forum non conveniens doctrine, after applying the standard of review in that regard, the court noted that there is only a 20 mile distance between the Lackawanna County Courthouse and the Luzerne County Courthouse and that, given the fact that the trial was scheduled to commence in less than three (3) weeks following the filing of the motion, the court found that the Luzerne County hospital had not satisfied its burden of demonstrating that the Plaintiffs’ chosen venue was oppressive or vexatious to that hospital.

As such, the Petitions filed by the Luzerne County hospital were denied.

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

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