Incidental Business Connections Are Insufficient to Establish Venue (PA)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently tackled a civil procedure issue that frequently crosses the minds of defense counsel: improper venue. According to Pa. R.C.P 1006(e), improper venue must be raised in the defendants’ preliminary objections to plaintiff’s complaint or the objection will be waived.
In Kanevsky v. Revolution Ice Rink LLC, the plaintiff slipped and fell while playing ice hockey at an ice-skating rink located in Warminster, Pennsylvania and brought a negligence suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Defendant Black Bear (“Black Bear”) owns and operates ice skating rinks in Pennsylvania and in other states. However, Black Bear’s principal place of business is in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Revolution Ice Rink, LLC (“Revolution”) only owns one ice rink, where it also owns and hosts a youth ice hockey team (“Philadelphia Revolution”) and is based in Warminster, Pennsylvania.
Defendants filed joint preliminary objections against plaintiff claiming they were neither domiciled in Philadelphia nor did they operate their businesses in Philadelphia. At the evidentiary hearing, plaintiff argued that Black Bear’s CEO was quoted calling the ice rink “the hockey hub of North Philadelphia” in a press release. He argued this publication demonstrates the defendants generate revenue in Philadelphia, which was grounds for venue. The defendants argued the statements were for advertising purposes only, they did not conduct business in Philadelphia, and they did not generate revenue in Philadelphia or pay taxes in Philadelphia. The Court transferred venue to Bucks County. The plaintiff timely appealed the decision, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by transferring venue. He argued he satisfied the quality and quantity test pursuant to Pa.R.C.P 2179(a)(2) and Black Bear’s CEO admitted to substantial business activities in Philadelphia.
The quantity and quality test is discussed in the case Purcell v. Bryn Mawr Hospital. Purcell v. Bryn Mawr Hospital, 579 A.2d 1282 (Pa. 1990). The Court stated quality of business contacts is determined by “those directly, furthering, or essential to, corporate [objectives]; they do not include incidental acts”. Id. Regarding quantity, the acts must be “so continuous and sufficient to be general or habitual”. Id. Acts that aid the business’ primary objective are different from those that are necessary for the primary objective of the business. Ultimately, here, the Court rejected plaintiff’s arguments. First, the ice hockey rink is located in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Second, the fact that the youth hockey team is named Philadelphia Revolution is not indicative that business is conducted in Philadelphia. Other teams and businesses have Philadelphia in their name but conduct business outside of the city. Third, defendants did not own, purchase, or sell any property; pay taxes; or generate revenue in Philadelphia. Last, the press release was not central to the defendants’ business objectives, but was incidental. Thus, the trial court’s order was affirmed.
Venue is a procedural issue to monitor because plaintiffs may choose a forum based on where they foresee a favorable outcome as opposed to where it is proper for the matter to be heard. Defense counsel must object to improper venue in preliminary objections to avoid the issue being waived
Thanks to Gabrielle Outlaw for her post. Please contact Vincent F. Terrasi with any questions or comments.