HARRISBURG – The state Superior Court has rejected the appeal of Community Education Centers Inc., which argued that a plaintiff engaged in forum-shopping.
The July 10 opinion ruled in favor of Susanne Wallace, the mother of and estate administrator for former George Hill Correctional Facility inmate Janene Wallace who filed a lawsuit against CEC, as the operator of George Hill Correctional Facility, after Janene Wallace hanged herself at the facility on May 26, 2015.
Susanne Wallace alleged that the facility’s correctional officers were aware that her daughter “suffered from mental illness,” according to the Superior Court ruling, and that prison staff did nothing for nearly an hour after Janene Wallace told them “she was going to choke herself and covered her cell window.”
When correctional officers did check in on Janene Wallace 50 minutes after her threats to hurt herself, they found her hanging in her cell. Janene Wallace was “pronounced dead at the correctional facility,” the Superior Court said, and the autopsy “revealed numerous bruises on her legs, chest and arms.”
According to the Superior Court ruling, Susanne Wallace originally filed a writ of summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, but never filed an actual complaint in that proceeding. Instead, she later filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and asked the Delaware County court to discontinue the other action.
“Although CEC sets forth three issues in its (appeal brief), a reading of that brief reveals that the gravamen of CEC’s complaints is that the trial court abused its discretion in denying its motion to strike discontinuance because Wallace’s sole reason for discontinuing the Delaware County action was to forum shop,” according to the July 10 appeal ruling.
However, the Superior Court said Susanne Wallace filed the writ of summons in Delaware County because she initially believed that she had a medical liability claim against CEC, which is required by law to be filed in the county in which the “cause of action arose.”
When she found out that she did not have a medical liability case, but instead had a negligence case, she moved the lawsuit to Philadelphia County, where the correctional facility is located and the correctional officer named in that lawsuit lives.
“CEC asserts, without one scintilla of record support, that its motion to strike should have been granted because Wallace’s only purpose for discontinuing was to forum shop,” the Superior Court said.