Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County in the case of Bernard Wagner v. The Pennsylvania Dairy Herd Improvement Association, Ellis Denlinger, Stanley Brubaker, John Castrogiavanni and Robert F. Claraval, No. EQ. 1986-18.
Edward A. McQuoid, with him, George M. Schroeck, Schroeck & Segal, P.C., for appellant.
Robert F. Claraval, Adler, Jameson & Claraval, for appellees.
Judges MacPhail and Colins, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Narick. Judge Colins concurs in the result only.
[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 351]
Bernard Wagner (Appellant), a Crawford County resident, has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County sustaining Appellees' preliminary objections seeking a change of venue to Centre County. Appellees are the Pennsylvania Dairy Herd Improvement Association (Pa. DHIA) and four of its individual members.
Before addressing the precise issue raised by this appeal, some background information would be useful. Appellant is a member of the Pa. DHIA, an organization whose purpose is to maintain milk production records on dairy cattle with the goal of genetically improving dairy herds. All members of the Pa. DHIA belong to a local association, the Crawford County DHIA in Appellant's case, which is operated independently
[ 120 Pa. Commw. Page 352]
from the statewide association. Each local association is responsible for hiring an individual to supervise the collection of data from each member on a regular basis. The data is then forwarded to the Pa. DHIA at its headquarters in State College, Centre County, where it is analyzed and files are maintained on each herd.
In 1986, the Pa. DHIA notified Appellant that there may have been improprieties in his record-keeping and that it had scheduled a hearing to determine whether sanctions would be appropriate. Appellant objected to, but nonetheless participated in, a hearing in Centre County before a hearing board comprised of the individual Appellees named here. Before that board rendered a decision, Appellant filed the instant suit in equity, seeking to enjoin the board from taking any action based on the hearing, which Appellant contends was violative of the Pa. DHIA's own corporate bylaws and his right of due process.
Specifically, Appellant's complaint alleges that he was denied proper notice of the hearing and of the charges against him; that he was prevented from developing his side of the controversy by being denied the opportunity to present witnesses, affidavits and other evidence; that he was denied a fair hearing because the Pa. DHIA's own counsel presided at the hearing; and that the hearing board did not consist of the members of the Pa. DHIA's Board of Directors, as specified in the corporate bylaws. The relief Appellant seeks is an injunction to prevent the Pa. DHIA hearing board from taking action to expel or censure him, or cancel his records, "until such time as the Pa. D.H.I.A. holds a hearing pursuant to [its] Bylaws. . . ." (Complaint, page 6).
On Appellee's motion, the Crawford County judge determined that venue properly ...