Pa. appellate court affirms judge's decision granting venue transfer from Phila. to Adams County

By Jon Campisi | Oct 11, 2012

A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel recently affirmed an order by a Philadelphia judge

A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel recently affirmed an order by a Philadelphia judge

that granted a defendant’s transfer request in an injury case stemming from an industrial accident.

On Oct. 5, the three-judge appellate panel upheld a Nov. 16, 2011, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas decision that granted Penn Kleen Inc.’s request to move a case initiated by George Stoner at the state court in Philadelphia from that venue to the trial court in Adams County, which is where the actual injury occurred.

Stoner was injured on March 16, 2010, at the Swopes Salvage Yard in East Berlin, Adams County, his place of employment, after an explosion that occurred during the course of Stoner’s disassembly of a pressure washer, the record shows.

The device had been sold to Swopes by Penn Kleen, which is based in neighboring York County.

A handful of other defendants are also named in the complaint, which Stoner filed in Philadelphia County.

Penn Kleen subsequently filed a petition to transfer venue on the grounds of forum non conveniens, a motion that was subsequently granted by a Philadelphia judge.

Stoner filed an appeal, arguing that Penn Kleen didn’t meet its burden of establishing that litigating the case in Philadelphia would be oppressive to the company, and that the trial court erred in transferring the case out of Philadelphia based solely upon the alleged hardship of a single defendant, Penn Kleen, when the other four defendants named in the complaint conceded that Philadelphia wouldn’t be an oppressive venue.

In their opinion, the Superior Court judges wrote that Penn Kleen did, in fact, successfully argue why travel to Philadelphia would be oppressive.

First, the company averred that each of the witnesses was located in Adams County, which is where the accident took place, and that Penn Employees work and reside in neighboring York County.

“Second, Penn Kleen presented affidavits and other submissions which established that venue in Philadelphia would not merely be inconvenient to itself and the witnesses, but that it was a substantial burden,” the opinion states.

Penn Kleen had argued that having the trial play out in Philadelphia would mean business would have to temporarily shut down, which would result in the loss of income.

Three Penn Kleen employees corroborated this assertion by submitting affidavits that said travel to Philadelphia would take in excess of three-and-a-half hours, would involve at least 200 round-trip miles, and would impose significant costs.

The same employees in their affidavits noted that travel to Adams County, on the other hand, would only involve 31 to 75 miles of travel, and would not involve the same tolls or parking fees.

“Thus, we conclude that Penn Kleen presented sufficient evidence that it would be oppressive and vexatious for Penn Kleen and its witnesses to travel to Philadelphia, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in transferring venue to Adams County,” the opinion states.

The opinion was written by Superior Court Judge Anne E. Lazarus.

Joining Lazarus in the opinion were Judges Jacqueline O. Shogan and William H. Platt.

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