Sunday, April 10, 2011

An interesting day….

I was at a meeting yesterday where a gentleman from a trade association (who I will not name to protect the ….  Not sure what word to use here but innocent is definitely not the right word).  This gentleman was discussing why business owners should  join his association.  He went on to seek the support of local business owners to help pressure legislators into passing what he called reforms to the current legal system.  Explaining that trial lawyers needed to be controlled. 

Between the speaker and the associations website, they addresses many issues such as joint and several liability, products liability, forum shopping and filing of frivolous law suits. 

The association has targeted comments made the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge who runs their Complex Litigation Center.  The judge basically invited lawyers representing plaintiffs to file their actions in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center.  She went on to note that the increase in suits would increase revenue to the court as well as the city and local businesses.  The speaker also noted that a person who fell in a Hershey Pennsylvania (Dauphin County) sports arena sued in Philadelphia County based on the premise that the Hershey based sports team played a sports team in Philadelphia County several times a year.  These were his examples of abuses of the system. 

Oddly, these are the rules…  It called venue… 
Rule 2179 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

(a) Except as otherwise provided by an Act of Assembly, by Rule 1006(a.1) or by subdivision (b) of this rule, a personal action against a corporation or similar entity may be brought in and only in
 (1) the county where its registered office or principal place of business is located;
 (2) a county where it regularly conducts business;
 (3) the county where the cause of action arose;
 (4) a county where a transaction or occurrence took place out of which the cause of action arose, or
 (5) a county where the property or a part of the property which is the subject matter of the action is located provided that equitable relief is sought with respect to the property.

(b) An action upon a policy of insurance against an insurance company, association or exchange, either incorporated or organized in Pennsylvania or doing business in this Commonwealth, may be brought

 (1) in a county designated in Subdivision (a) of this rule; or
 (2) in the county where the insured property is located; or
 (3) in the county where the plaintiff resides, in actions upon policies of life, accident, health, disability, and live stock insurance or fraternal benefit certificates.

These rules may be modified by the legislature at any time.  In fact, the legislature found is appropriate to modify them for medical malpractice cases, limiting venue to the county where the action arose.

There are other rules that lawyers can use to “remove” a case from the wrong court, specifically Rule 1006(e).  The inference that venue (or forum) shopping is an abuse of the system is a frightening commentary from any association.  Associations seeking to “protect” consumers, business people, their insured, themselves should look to the legislature to modify the rules.  If plaintiff’s lawyers play within the rules how can it be an abuse?  You may not like the result, until you’re  a plaintiff and want to be in a different venue but until the rules change – like they did for malpractice matters – there are a lot of places you can be sued and you can file a lawsuit. 

By the way, this is no different than Cameron County and Potter County — those courts figured out that the local court system can make extra money by hosting out-of-county divorce cases even where venue may not be properly placed in their counties.  Their extremely low filing fees for divorces makes them attractive to divorcing spouses who want to save money compared to what they might have to pay to file their cases in the proper venue.  However Cameron County and Potter County will typically look to transfer your case if issues arise. 

I didn’t hear that gentleman expressing concerns about this tactic, which is an abuse of the system.  I guess divorcing couples looking to save a buck don’t do too much to fund Political Action Committees!

Kind of makes you really think about the motives,,,

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