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RINI v. NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY. BRANT (03/15/68)

decided: March 15, 1968.

RINI, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY. BRANT, APPELLANT, V. NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY. MASTERSON, APPELLANT, V. NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY



Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1966, Nos. 557 and 668, and Jan. T., 1967, No. 861, in cases of Guy J. Rini v. New York Central Railroad Company; Edward L. Brant v. Same; and James Masterson v. Same.

COUNSEL

William W. McVay, with him James E. McLaughlin, and McArdle & McLaughlin, for appellants.

Chauncey Pruger, with him Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Mr. Justice Jones concurs in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Musmanno joins in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Bell

[ 429 Pa. Page 236]

These appeals arise from the Order of the lower Court granting defendant's motions to dismiss plaintiffs' actions under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

[ 429 Pa. Page 237]

In each case, plaintiff is an employee of the New York Central Railroad Company, and these actions were commenced under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for personal injuries sustained during the scope of their employment. It is admitted that service was properly obtained in each action in Allegheny County.

The facts in each of these three companion cases are not in dispute. In Rini v. New York Central Railroad Company, the accident occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, and the plaintiff resides in Cleveland. There are fourteen proposed witnesses -- four of whom are doctors who reside in Cleveland, Ohio; none of the other witnesses reside in Allegheny County. Plaintiff was confined in two hospitals in Cleveland, and there is available to the plaintiff both the State and Federal Courts in Cleveland, Ohio. Furthermore, the statute of limitations has not expired.

In Brant v. New York Central Railroad Company, the accident occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, which is where the plaintiff resides. There are some thirteen witnesses, including a doctor, from Cleveland, and there are no witnesses (to be called) who reside in Allegheny County. Moreover, plaintiff was hospitalized in Cleveland and the hospital personnel may be called as witnesses. Again, there are other appropriate forums besides Allegheny County available to the plaintiff; and the statute of limitations has not expired.

Finally, in Masterson v. New York Central Railroad Company, the accident occurred in Westfield, New York. Plaintiff resides in Erie, Pennsylvania, and all five of plaintiff's physicians are from Erie. There are no witnesses in this matter who reside in Allegheny County. With respect to claims by this plaintiff, he has other appropriate forums besides Allegheny County; and the statute of limitations has not expired.

[ 429 Pa. Page 238]

Our scope of review in this matter is limited. Whether a suit should be dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens depends upon the particular facts of each case and upon the discretion of the trial Court. On appeal, we will reverse only when there has been an abuse of discretion. Plum v. Tampax, Inc., 399 Pa. 553, 160 A.2d 549. In that case the Court set forth appropriate standards for determining what facts, interests and factors the Court should consider in determining whether a suit should be dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Court said (pages 560-562):

". . . It is well within the power of the court, in the interests of justice, to decline to exercise its jurisdiction where, upon consideration of the parties, the witnesses, the situs of the cause of action and other kindred reasons, the litigation can more appropriately be conducted in another forum. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, supra; Koster v. Lumbermens Mut. Casualty Co., 330 U.S. 518 (1947). The American Law Institute, in its Restatement (2d), Conflict of Laws (Tentative Draft No. 4 April 5, 1957), formulates the rule this way: '§ 117e. Forum Non Conveniens. While the plaintiff ordinarily controls choice of the forum, a court does not exercise jurisdiction if it is a seriously inappropriate forum for the trial of the action so long as an appropriate forum is available to the plaintiff.' [Footnote omitted.] Whether a suit should be dismissed under the doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens will depend largely upon the particular facts and upon the discretion of the trial court. Such exercise of discretion will be overruled on appeal only when abused.

"The factors for the lower court to consider in making its determination are succinctly put in the comments to § 117e of the Restatement: 'c. Factors to be considered. The two most important factors look to the court's retention of the case. They are (1) that

[ 429 Pa. Page 239]

    since it is for the plaintiff to choose the place of suit, his choice of a forum should not be disturbed except for weighty reasons, and (2) that the action will not be dismissed in any event unless an alternative forum is available to the plaintiff. Because of the second factor, the suit will be entertained, no matter how inappropriate the forum may be, if defendant cannot be subjected to jurisdiction in other states. The same will be true if plaintiff's cause of action would elsewhere be barred by the statute of limitations, unless the court is willing to accept defendant's stipulation that he will not raise ...


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