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Forum Shopping In Philly Dealt A Set Back

October 28, 2022

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In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/McGuinness-v.-Elite-Crete-Systems-Inc..pdf">McGuinness v. Elite-Crete Systems, Inc.</a>, </em>the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Superior Court”) upheld an order transferring plaintiffs’ action from Philadelphia County to Alleghany County due to <em>forum non conveniens. </em>The Superior Court stated there was sufficient evidence of record that Philadelphia would be an oppressive venue and the trial court did not abuse their discretion when determining the case should be moved to Allegheny County.

In September 2018, Drew McGuiness, William Dusch, and David Sims (collectively “Plaintiffs”) were refinishing the basement of a residence in Allegheny County when an explosion occurred resulting in two of the men suffering severe burns over thirty precent of their body. Plaintiffs filed a claim in Philadelphia County asserting products liability, negligence, and loss of consortium. In March 2021, defendants moved to transfer the case to Allegheny County based on <em>forum non conveniens. </em>The trial court granted to the motion to transfer venue and Plaintiffs filed a timely appeal.

The Superior Court reviewed the trial court’s ruling for an abuse of discretion. In their review, the Superior Court determined if the trial court held defendants to the high standard of showing the plaintiffs’ chosen forum is “oppressive or vexatious.” The trial court in granting the motion found that; (1) no cause of action arose in Philadelphia; (2) no defendants were located in Philadelphia; (3) no third-party fact witness lived in Philadelphia; (4) a trial in Allegheny County would provider easier access for jurors to view the scene of he explosion; and (5) the affidavits from first responders contained “ample evidence” that a trial in Philadelphia would be oppressive as witnesses would have difficulty making the trip.

Using <em>Bractic v. Rubendall </em>as instructive, the Superior Court stated “the applicable standard of review requires this Court to determine whether there is support on the record for the trial court’s ruling based on the totality of the circumstances.” Therefore, based on the sufficient evidence considered by the trial court, the Superior Court upheld the transfer of venue to Allegheny County. This case provides some hope to defendants attempting to limit blatant forum shopping.

Thanks to Erin Russell for her contribution to this post.  Should you have any questions, contact <a href="mailto:mcare@wcmlaw.com">Matthew Care</a>.

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