Monday, April 18, 2022

Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens Reviewed In Dispute Between Two Plaintiff's Law Firms Over a Substantial Fee

In the case of Fellerman & Ciarimboli Law, PC v. Joseph L. Messa, Jr., & Associates, No. 21-CV-4654 (C.P. Lacka. Co. April 14, 2022 Nealon, J.), the court addressed issues under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

According to the Opinion, the personal injury law firm Plaintiff in this matter, which maintains offices in Delaware County, Lackawanna County, Luzerne County, Philadelphia County, and New Jersey, commenced a declaratory judgment action against a Philadelphia personal injury law firm seeking a determination regarding the proper method for calculating the Philadelphia firm’s share of attorney’s fees of a little over $2 million dollars that relative to a civil litigation matter.

The counsel fees in dispute were generated from a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed and litigated in Philadelphia County and defended by Philadelphia area attorneys. The underlying case arose from the death of a Philadelphia resident in a Philadelphia accident. The court also noted that the counsel fees were approved by a Philadelphia County judge.

It was also noted that, with regards to the attorney’s fees at issue, the Philadelphia law firm had instituted a separate action against the Plaintiff law firm in Philadelphia County asserting breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and other claims.

In this Lackawanna County declaratory judgment case filed by the Plaintiff law firm, the Defendant Philadelphia law firm filed a Petition pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1006(d)(1) seeking to transfer venue in this declaratory judgment action to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on forum non conveniens grounds.

After reviewing the record before him, Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas determined that the records contained sufficient proof that the continued litigation of this declaratory judgment action in Lackawanna County would be unduly burdensome for the Philadelphia law firm and the anticipated witnesses. The court noted that no material witness or any relevant evidence was located in Lackawanna County and that Philadelphia County would provide easier access to the witnesses and other sources of proof.

Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the court found that Lackawanna County is an oppressive forum for the adjudication of this case. As such, the court granted the Petition to Transfer Venue and transferred the case to Philadelphia County.

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

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