Dismissal of Philly wrongful death case affirmed; Lawsuit was filed by Illinois woman

By Sandra Lane | Jun 26, 2018

HARRISBURG – The Superior Court on June 12 upheld a Philadelphia County decision that said an estate representative's wrongful death lawsuit could not be tried in Pennsylvania.


Judge Anne E. Lazarus  

HARRISBURG – The Superior Court  on June 12 upheld a Philadelphia County decision that said an estate representative's wrongful death lawsuit could not be tried in Pennsylvania.

Debra Yowell filed the lawsuit on March 14, 2017, against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. on behalf of the estate of the late Ralph Yowell Jr.

According to the Superior Court's opinion, Norfolk argued that Pennsylvania courts had no jurisdiction over it because, although its headquarters are in Pennsylvania, it is a Virginia corporation.

In the lawsuit, Yowell, a resident of Illinois, filed a wrongful.death complaint in accordance with the Federal Employers Liability Act.


According to the court records, the complaint alleged that Yowell’s late husband developed multiple myeloma as a result of exposure to excessive and harmful amounts of chemicals and cancer-causing substances during the course of his employment with Norfolk Southern. 

Debra Yowell alleged that her husband endured pain and suffering and ultimately as a result of the alleged negligence on the part of Norfolk Southern in exposing him to toxic materials.

In response to Norfolk Southern's argument regarding jurisdiction, Yowell said Pennsylvania courts did indeed have jurisdiction. Her petition said “Norfolk Southern has already consented to jurisdiction in Pennsylvania based upon its registering to do business in Pennsylvania as of Sept. 1, 1998.”  

However, in its opinion granting Norfolk Southern's preliminary objections, the trial court said Yowell waived the issue of jurisdiction by consent, finding that Yowell’s one-sentence argument was  “wholly devoid of analysis or citation to legal authority for support.”

“Pennsylvania state courts do not have personal jurisdiction over Norfolk, Yowell proved neither specific nor general in personam jurisdiction over Norforlk, and Yowell waived her argument regarding Norfolk’s alleged consent to jurisdiction for lack of analysis or citation to legal authority," Judge Anne Lazarus said in her ruling.

The other two Superior Court judges on the panel, Judge Alice Beck Dubow and Judge Jacqueline Shogan, concurred with the opinion written by Lazarus.

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