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Sometimes, De Minimus Contacts Equals Maximum Damage Award! (PA)

March 12, 2021

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In a recent <em>en banc</em> opinion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that a couple should not be prevented from suing in their choice of venue even where only a small percentage of the defendant company’s $1.4 billion in revenue is derived there.

In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Hangey-et-al.-v.-Husqvarna-Professional-Products-Inc.-et-al..pdf">Hangey, et al. v. Husqvarna Professional Products, Inc., et al.</a></em> plaintiffs, husband and wife, brought suit after Mr. Hangey fell off a Husqvarna lawn mower and both of his legs were maimed when the lawn mower’s blades did not stop. Mr. Hangey purchased the lawn mower in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the incident occurred at the Hangeys’ home in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. However, the Hangeys brought suit in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania—which is known as an extremely favorable plaintiff’s forum.
<p style="text-align: justify;">Husqvarna filed preliminary objections arguing—among other things—improper venue. Discovery revealed that Philadelphia did not fall within Husqvarna’s target market area, Husqvarna did not conduct regular business in Philadelphia, Husqvarna was not incorporated in Philadelphia, and only 0.005% of Husqvarna’s sales came from its authorized dealer in Philadelphia County. As such, the trial court granted Husqvarna’s preliminary objections raising improper venue.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Pennsylvania Superior Court, however, reversed the trial court’s decision in its <em>en banc</em> opinion. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reasoned that although Husqvarna’s business in Philadelphia could be categorized as <em>de minimus</em>, it was nonetheless regular, continuous, and habitual, and therefore sufficient for proper venue. The opinion indicated that trial court must consider several factors when considering appropriate venue and not just a defendant’s business revenue. Two judges on the Pennsylvania Superior Court dissented, saying that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and that the trial court has “considerable discretion” when determining proper venue.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to John Lang for his contribution to this post.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="mailto:tbracken@wcmlaw.com">Tom Bracken</a>.</p>

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