On August 18, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reiterated the standards in Pennsylvania for transfer of venue. In doing so, the Court reversed the decision of the Pa Superior Court and affirmed the decision of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge to transfer venue to Dauphin County.
As Background, Residential Warranty Corporation and Integrity Underwriters filed suit in Dauphin County against Alexander Bratic and Joseph Proko ( “Bratic and Proko”). The case ended when Bratic and Proko winning on a Motion for Summary Judgment. Thereafter, Bratic and Proko filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia against Residential Warranty Corporation and Integrity Underwriters and their attorneys ( the “Defendants”) for wrongful use of civil proceedings and common-law abuse-of-process.
The Defendants filed a motion to transfer venue to Dauphin County pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1006 (d)1) for forum non conveniens. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted the Motion for the following reasons:
- The original claim which resulted in this lawsuit took place in Dauphin County;
- All the Defendants are from Dauphin County;
- Each of the Defendants’ 8 witnesses live over 100 miles from Philadelphia and are engaged in business activities which make their ability to appear at trial in Philadelphia County far more burdensome then in Dauphin County
- The sole connection to Philadelphia is that Defendants occasionally conducted business in Philadelphia.
On appeal the Pa Superior Court initially affirmed the Lower Court. After re-argument before the Court en banc, the Pa Superior Court reversed the lower Court finding that the Defendants did not carry their burden of demonstrating that trial in Philadelphia would be oppressive or vexatious.
On appeal the Pa Supreme Court reversed the Pa Superior Court and found that the Pa Superior Court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the Court of Common Pleas. The Court found that the trial court is vested with considerable discretion when ruling on a Motion to transfer venue and “if there exists any proper basis for the trial court’s decision to transfer venue, the decision must stand.”
The Pa Supreme Court found that there was ample evidence in the record to support the trial court’s decision to transfer venue. While the Defendant has the burden of proof they need not show “near-draconian consequences” as suggested by the Superior court. They just need to show that trial would be more than inconvenient in Philadelphia. Based upon the record the trial court did not abuse its discretion.