PHILADELPHIA — The Superior Court of Pennsylvania on July 20 ruled a trial court abused its discretion when it failed to consider that two railroad workers employed by CSX Transportation are not residents of Pennsylvania.
David W. Hovatter and Edward M. Wilson filed their complaints in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, even though neither lives in Pennsylvania.
Senior Judge William H. Platt authored the opinion. He was joined by Judges Anne E. Lazarus and Paula Francisco Ott.
The trial court denied the CSX motions to dismiss the complaint, which claimed violations of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), according to an opinion filed July 13 in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
"On independent review, we are constrained to conclude that the learned trial court erred in its interpretation of the applicable law on venue and abused its discretion in evaluating the factors pertinent to whether to dismiss an action filed in Pennsylvania, based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens," Platt wrote. "Accordingly, we vacate and remand."
CSX filed motions to dismiss complaints by David W. Hovatter and Edward M. Wilson, but the trial court denied the motions, even though Hovatter is a Maryland resident and Wilson is a Kentucky resident.
In both cases, CSX stipulated that if the plaintiffs would file in the appropriate courts, it would waive any objection regarding venue or personal jurisdiction, as well as the statute of limitations.
CSX appealed in both cases to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
"The trial court found that Appellant was doing business in Philadelphia by virtue of its hauling freight through the county on a regular basis," Platt wrote. "Furthermore, the court reasoned that even though Appellant had waived objections to re-filing in an alternate jurisdiction (on certain conditions), it had failed to establish weighty reasons for dismissal on evaluation of the private and public interest factors."
The Superior Court disagreed, ordering the trial court to dismiss the cases so that they can be refiled in a more appropriate court.
Superior Court of Pennsylvania Case number: 3379 EDA 2016