Pennsylvania Record

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Second venue change in case of Pa. woman burned by faulty heating pad

By Jon Campisi | Feb 4, 2014

A federal judge in Harrisburg has been assigned a products liability case

stemming from a fire allegedly caused by a faulty heating pad, litigation that was initiated this past fall in state court in Philadelphia and later transferred to the federal venue in that city.

Records at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania show that Judge Yvette Kane will now be presiding over a case brought by Cassandra Bowman, a Chambersburg, Pa. resident who filed suit in September against Florida-based Jarden Corp. and Jarden Consumer Solutions over injuries she claims to have sustained after being burned by a malfunctioning heating pad made by the defendants.

James H. Heller, a lawyer with Philadelphia law firm Cozen O’Connor, had filed a removal petition in late November, maintaining the case belonged at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia and not the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where it had been filed in September by attorney Derek R. Layser.

The Pennsylvania Record reported last year on the case, which involves claims that the plaintiff was injured by the defendant’s Sunbeam heating pad after the device became overheated and caused her bed to catch fire.

Bowman says that the incident, which occurred in the spring of 2011, caused her to sustain second-degree burns on her hands and first-degree burns on her back.

She claims to have developed permanent scarring as a result of the ordeal.

Heller, the defense lawyer, subsequently filed a petition asserting his view that the matter belonged in federal court because of diversity in citizenship.

In his Nov. 27 removal notice, Heller also wrote that the litigation should be played out in U.S. District Court because the amount in controversy is expected to be in excess of $75,000.

Citing Third Circuit Court of Appeals precedence, Heller wrote that if a plaintiff’s complaint does not state a specific damage sum, “the amount in controversy is not measured by the low end of an open-ended claim, but rather by a reasonable reading of the value of the rights being litigated.”

Heller had originally filed a petition to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, citing the fact that that court is in the federal judicial district embracing Philadelphia County, where the action was originally filed.

Records show, however, that Eastern District Judge William H. Yohn, Jr., transferred the matter to the federal court in Harrisburg in late December of last year.

In a Dec. 3 motion, Heller, the lawyer representing Jarden Corp. and co-defendant Sunbeam Products Inc. had requested a transfer to Harrisburg because the federal court there was closer to the plaintiff’s Franklin County home than the federal court in Philadelphia.

Heller had written that the case had no connection to the City of Brotherly Love.

“Under the facts of this case, the convenience of the parties, the interests of justice, and sound judicial administration favor transferring this action to a forum with a connection to this litigation,” Heller had written in early December. “The Middle District of Pennsylvania is connected to this litigation because it is the home district of the Plaintiff, the place in which she suffered her injuries and the location of various witnesses and evidence identified by Plaintiff’s Complaint.”

The court agreed.

In her lawsuit, Bowman claims that the defendants’ heating pad caused a fire to burn through her mattress and three comforters that were on her bed at the time.

The woman had fallen asleep at the time the device allegedly malfunctioned and caught fire.

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