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PAULINE ALTER ET AL. v. PENNSYLVANIA GAS AND WATER COMPANY ET AL. V. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/20/87)

decided: October 20, 1987.

PAULINE ALTER ET AL.
v.
PENNSYLVANIA GAS AND WATER COMPANY ET AL. V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES ET AL., APPELLANTS. DAVID E. CAPRIARI ET AL. V. PENNSYLVANIA GAS AND WATER COMPANY ET AL. V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES ET AL. V. POCO-SPRING SEWER COMPANY, A/K/A POCO-SPRING WATER AND SEWER COMPANY, A/K/A ROARING BROOK ESTATES. SPRINGBROOK TOWNSHIP ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, in case of Pauline Alter, et al. v. Pennsylvania Gas and Water Company, Springbrook Township, Roaring Brook Township, Covington Township, Elmhurst Township and Moscow Borough v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Poco-Spring Sewer Company a/k/a Poco-Spring Water and Sewer Company a/k/a Roaring Brook Estates, No. 5586 C of 1985; and in case of David E. Capriari et al. v. Pennsylvania Gas and Water Company, Springbrook Township, Roaring Brook Township, Covington Township, Elmhurst Township and Moscow Borough v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Game Commission v. Poco-Spring Sewer Company a/k/a Poco-Spring Water and Sewer Company a/k/a Roaring Brook Estates, No. 1111 C of 1985.

COUNSEL

John E. V. Pieski, for appellants, Springbrook Township, Covington Township, Elmhurst Township and Moscow Borough.

John G. Whelley, Jr., with him, Perry J. Shertz, Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, for appellee, Pennsylvania Gas & Water Company.

Laurence S. Berman, with him, Arnold Levin, Levin & Fishbein, and Michael J. Cefalo and Thomas J. Foley, Jr., Thomas J. Foley, Jr., & Associates, for appellees, Pauline Alter et al. and David E. Capriari et al.

Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 351]

Before us are orders arising from two cases in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, which granted the motions for change of venue filed respectively by Pauline Alter et al. and David E. Capriari et al. (collectively appellees) and recommended to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that Bucks County be designated as the county to which the cases should be transferred. The cases have been consolidated for consideration by this Court.

The cases involve complaints filed by the appellees against the Pennsylvania Gas and Water Company (PGW) and other water companies, and Springbrook Township, Roaring Brook Township, Covington Township, Elmhurst Township and Moscow Borough (collectively the municipalities), and various Commonwealth

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 352]

    agencies who were joined as additional defendants. All of the municipalities here concerned are located within Lackawanna County. The appellees are seeking damages from PGW and the municipalities as a result of an outbreak of giardiasis in certain areas of Luzerne County over the past several years. Subsequent to the filing of the complaint, PGW and various municipalities filed preliminary objections. Before the preliminary objections had been ruled upon, however, the appellees filed motions for transfer of the actions to Bucks County. There were answers to the transfer motions and replies to new matter. The Luzerne County Court then granted the transfer motions and these appeals ensued pursuant to Pa. R.A.P. No. 311(c) (providing for interlocutory appeals as of right in orders which change the venue of a case or transfer it to a court of coordinate jurisdiction).

The municipalities assert two grounds for error. First, they maintain that the trial court erred in not ruling upon the preliminary objections prior to ruling upon the transfer motion. Second, they assert that, even if the Luzerne County Court has authority to transfer, such transfer was erroneous where the trial court did not hold a hearing on the matter. We shall consider these issues seriatim.

The municipalities seem to be arguing that, until the common pleas court determines, inter alia, whether or not it had venue, whether or not the complaint was lacking in specificity, and whether or not the complaint stated a cause of action, it could not decide the transfer issue because (1) unless the court had venue it, in essence, lacked authority to decide the transfer issue, (2) unless the complaint was sufficiently specific, the trial court could not determine whether a fair ...


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