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Which County You Buy In Matters for Venue (PA)

June 1, 2017

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ decision to grant defendants’ preliminary objections in <a href=""><em>Faust v. BMW et al</em>.</a>  The plaintiff, Max Faust, was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident in Lancaster County, and suffered injuries when his airbag deployed.  He sued the vehicle’s manufacturer, BMW, its subsidiaries, and the dealer that sold the vehicle, N&amp;H, LLC.  The defendants filed preliminary objections asserting that Philadelphia was an improper venue for the suit.  The trial court granted the objections and Faust appealed.
In cases involving multiple defendants, if venue is proper for at least one defendant, then it is proper for all defendants.  In Pennsylvania, venue is proper in any county where a defendant regularly conducts business.  Courts use a quality-quantity test to see if a defendant regularly conducts business in a county.  Quality of contacts will be found if the acts are essential to an entity’s objective and existence.  Acts that merely aid a main purpose but are not essential to a business’s survival are collateral and will not suffice.  Mere solicitation of business in a county does not amount to an essential act by a business.
Faust pointed to numerous acts that BMW performed as evidence that it regularly conducts business in Philadelphia, including mailing advertisements, holding events, radio advertisements, attending the Philadelphia Auto Show, and having numerous customers who live in Philadelphia.
The trial court found that BMW’s main objective was the sale and/or lease of its vehicles.  The court then found, which the Superior Court agreed with, that nearly every piece of conduct that Faust pointed to in the record was merely solicitation in Philadelphia.  In fact, the court noted that Faust provided no evidence that any vehicle sales or leases were ever consummated in Philadelphia.
In addition, the court disagreed with Faust’s assertion that because Philadelphia residents purchased BMW’s that venue was proper.  The court, instead, stated that the purchase of goods or services in one county by residents of another is insufficient to establish venue in the purchaser’s home county.
This case highlights the importance of analyzing exactly where goods and services were purchased in a case in order to determine proper venue.  By carefully looking at where a plaintiff or party purchased something and where a business regularly conducts business, a defendant can have a case transferred to or kept in a more defense friendly jurisdiction.  Thanks to Peter Cardwell for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.


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