Pa. Superior Court: suit against Bucks County casino cannot be heard in Phila.

By Jon Campisi | Mar 16, 2012

A state appellate court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a personal injury lawsuit against a Pennsylvania casino cannot be played out in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.

Superior Court Judge Anne E. Lazarus issued a ruling March 9 upholding a decision by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sandra Mazer Moss to transfer venue of William Wimble’s suit against Parx Casino and Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, Inc. to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

Wimble had filed a complaint in late October 2010 against the defendants alleging negligence with regard to an alleged incident in which he tripped over a defective electrical cord at the casino, sustaining serious injuries.

Greenwood Gaming filed preliminary objections to the suit on Nov. 16, 2010, in which it raised issues related to venue.

Wimble then filed an amended complaint on Dec. 2, 2010, to which the defendants again filed objections over forum.

On March 7, 2011, Judge Moss sustained Greenwood’s objections, ordering the case to be transferred to Bucks County.

Wimble appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to apply the proper legal standard to determine the propriety of venue in Philadelphia, failing to develop a factual record prior to making its determination, and concluding on the record before it that Greenwood Gaming did not regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County.

The Superior Court ruling states that Wimble’s claims are without merit.

Wimble had argued that while Bensalem, Pa.-based Parx Casino, the location of the alleged incident, is located in Bucks County, its parent company, Greenwood Gaming, operates sister businesses in Philadelphia.

Greenwood, in its objections, argued that venue in Philadelphia was improper because the casino itself is located in Bucks County, Greenwood’s principal place of business is in Bucks County and Greenwood does not own property or conduct business in Philadelphia.

Wimble countered by arguing that Greenwood conducts business in Philadelphia County through subsidiary corporations, specifically, Bensalem Racing Association, Inc. and Keystone Turf Club, Inc.

The trial court rejected Wimble’s claim that Greenwood’s expenditure of advertising dollars in Philadelphia established venue there. The court also noted that, contrary to Wimble’s assertions, the two subsidiary corporations mentioned by Wimble are not actually owned by Greenwood Gaming, but rather are owned by an entity called Greenwood Racing, Inc.

This meant that Bensalem Racing Association and Keystone Turf Club are not subsidiaries of Greenwood Gaming, but rather “sister” entities, not enough in the Superior Court’s view to warrant venue in Philadelphia.

“Upon review, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by transferring Wimble’s case to Bucks County,” the Superior Court ruling states. “The entirety of Greenwood Gaming’s corporate activities occur in Bucks County. The underlying incident happened in Bucks County on the premises of Greenwood Gaming’s only business location. Greenwood Gaming’s advertising activities in Philadelphia do not amount to conducting business in that county.”

Lazarus wrote that like the trial court, the appellate panel rejected Wimble’s argument that the Philadelphia operations of Greenwood Gaming’s sister corporations should be attributed to Greenwood Gaming itself for purposes of determining venue.

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