PAMED Files Brief in Venue-related Supreme Court Case

Last Updated: Jun 27, 2024

PAMED joined the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) and numerous other aligned organizations in filing an amici curiae brief in an effort to preserve an important legal standard concerning where a court case will be tried. While not directly a “venue case,” a bad outcome here will exacerbate the harm already inflicted by the Supreme Court’s 2022 rescission of the venue rule. This case, Tranter, et al. v. Z&D Tour, Inc., et al., currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, arose from a well-publicized fatal vehicle crash.

At 3:30am on January 5, 2020, a motor coach operated by Z&D Tour flipped over on Interstate 70 in Westmoreland County while en route from New York City to Columbus, Ohio. The coach was then struck by several commercial vehicles including a UPS truck and a FedEx truck. Five died—the coach driver, two coach passengers, and two UPS drivers—and many others suffered serious injuries.

Plaintiffs, consisting of victims and their survivors, filed a civil lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Philadelphia is located almost 250 miles east of the crash site. UPS, FedEx and other defendants moved to dismiss this case or have the case consolidated with a related suit that had been filed in Allegheny County based on forum non conveniens grounds. Forum non conveniens is a legal doctrine recognizing a court’s power to move a case to a more convenient jurisdiction. The Philadelphia court found Philadelphia to be inconvenient and transferred the case to Westmoreland County.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Superior Court. The Superior Court ruled for the plaintiffs and vacated the transfer order. Defendants appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case.

PCCJR, PAMED and the others argue that the Superior Court applied a higher, incorrect legal standard to find that the Philadelphia court had abused its discretion by transferring the case. The Superior Court should have applied the longstanding, more flexible, standard to determine whether trying the case in Philadelphia would be overly burdensome to the witnesses and other case participants. Instead, the Superior Court applied a more rigid standard, requiring that the defendants establish that Philadelphia would be inconvenient for “key” defense witnesses.

The brief argues that the Supreme Court should reverse the Superior Court, thereby reinstating the transfer order and shifting the case to Westmoreland County. Oral argument in the case can be expected to occur sometime this fall. The amici brief can be accessed here.

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