Phila. woman's motion to have injury case retried and remanded to state court denied by federal judge

By Jon Campisi | Jan 23, 2012

A federal judge in Philadelphia has rejected a city woman’s plea to have her civil case stemming from a shopping-related injury retried and remanded back to state court.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick denied a motion by Nikole Brown seeking a new trial in her lawsuit against Moran Foods Inc., doing business as Save-A-Lot LTD.

Brown had sued the grocery retailer shortly after a Feb. 3, 2008 incident in which she claimed to have suffered physical and psychological injuries after being struck in the head by a falling container.

A June 2 trial this year came back in the defendant’s favor, finding that the store wasn’t negligent.

The plaintiff subsequently filed her motion seeking a new trial and to remand the case to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Brown argued that federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. She also claimed that the court erred in allowing the introduction into trial evidence of a past guilty plea in an unrelated case.

That guilty plea stemmed from a charge of endangering the welfare of a child for leaving her child in a vehicle while she shopped.

The court ruled that it was permissible for that information to be introduced into evidence.

“We concluded that the probative value of the guilty plea was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice,” Surrick wrote. “Plaintiff was claiming memory problems as a result of the plastic container striking her. The 2004 incident was relevant along with other evidence to show that Plaintiff had had prior cognitive difficulties and to rebut Plaintiff’s argument that she had never had memory problems before this incident.”

On Brown’s motion to remand the case to state court, the plaintiff argued that the defendant was a Pennsylvania corporation, and therefore the federal court lacked jurisdiction because the parties were not diverse.

In his ruling, however, Surrick wrote that the company named by Brown in her motion was not, in fact, even a party to the litigation, and therefore the issue was moot.

Surrick furthermore ruled that the parties involved in the case were, indeed, diverse, and therefore the federal court had proper jurisdiction.

Surrick’s Jan. 18 ruling, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, denied all of the claims laid out in Brown’s motion.

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