Improper venue and denial of motions for document production dot library negligence action

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jun 1, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- A federal appellate court affirmed a district court finding dismissing a woman’s negligence complaint for improper venue, and denied her motions to compel the production of documents in a library fall negligence action.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit judges D. Michael Fisher, Kent A. Jordan and Thomas I. Vanaskie ruled per curiam on May 25 that Lydia Elizabeth Greene’s November 2015 lawsuit filed against Horry County, S.C., the Horry County Public Library and the Horry County Fire Department would remain dismissed.

“Greene… alleged that she had tripped and fallen in the library, suffered serious injuries (including a traumatic brain injury), received substandard emergency care, and then been abandoned in a ‘project apartment’ before she had recovered,” the Third Circuit said.

According to a district court ruling, that judiciary body dismissed Greene’s in forma pauperis lawsuit sua sponte, for improper venue.

Subsequent to the dismissal, Greene filed a pair of motions to compel the production of various documents. As the district court denied those motions, Greene filed a notice of appeal to the Third Circuit.

“We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291. District courts generally should not dismiss in forma pauperis complaints sua sponte for improper venue,” the Third Circuit said. “Here, we assume that the District Court erred in dismissing Greene’s complaint without giving her the opportunity to respond, or expressly considering whether the interests of justice justified transferring the action rather than dismissing it.”

However, the Third Circuit noted any error in said dismissal was “harmless.”

“It is apparent from Greene’s complaint that there is no conceivable basis for venue in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania because none of the defendants is alleged to reside there, and because her allegations are not related in any way to that District,” the appeals court wrote. “To the contrary, Greene’s factual allegations concern the in-state conduct of South Carolina entities. Moreover, while Greene has had the opportunity to challenge the District Court’s ruling on appeal, none of her appellate filings cast any doubt on the Court’s venue determination.”

The Third Circuit judges said they were “satisfied” that the interests of justice “did not require the District Court to transfer the action rather than dismiss it” -- and stipulated after the district court dismissed the complaint, Greene had ample time to refile in South Carolina within that state’s three-year statute of limitations.

Furthermore, the appeals court said requiring Greene to refile would not subject her to an additional filing fee, due to the district court ruling permitting her to proceed in forma pauperis.

“We discern no error in the District Court’s order denying Greene’s motions to compel. Having dismissed the complaint for improper venue, the District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Greene’s motions to compel. Accordingly, we will summarily affirm the District Court’s judgment,” the Third Circuit wrote.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 16-1021

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-06238

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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