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10/24/97 GALINA AND RICHARD RIBNICKY v. RICHARD

October 24, 1997

GALINA AND RICHARD RIBNICKY, APPELLEES
v.
RICHARD YEREX AND U.S. FLEET LEASING, INC., MCI TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND CITY OF ALLENTOWN; APPEAL OF: CITY OF ALLENTOWN; APPEAL OF: RICHARD YEREX, U.S. FLEET LEASING, INC. AND MCI TELECOMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION:



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court (Friedman, Kelley, JJ., and Mirarchi, S.J.) entered March 12, 1996 at No. 2156 C.D. 1995 reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (O'Keefe, J.) dated May 6, 1994 at No. 4113 November Term, 1993. JUDGE(S) BELOW: CCP - Hon. Joseph D. O'Keefe / COMMONWEALTH - FRIEDMAN, KELLEY, MIRARCHI, JJ.

Before: Flaherty, C.j., Zappala, Cappy, Castille, Nigro, Newman, JJ. Mr. Justice Nigro files a Concurring Opinion. Mr. Justice Cappy filed a Dissenting Opinion. Opinion Madame Justice Newman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman

OPINION MADAME JUSTICE NEWMAN

DECIDED: OCTOBER 24, 1997

This is an appeal of a Commonwealth Court Order, reversing the grant of the petition of a local agency, joined as an additional defendant in a personal injury action, for a change of venue pursuant to the political subdivision venue rules. For the following reasons, we reverse.

BACKGROUND

Galina Ribnicky was injured in a collision with another vehicle driven by Richard Yerex (Yerex) on January 16, 1992.

Yerex was allegedly driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

The accident occurred in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Galina and her husband, Richard, (the Ribnickys, collectively) filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court) against Yerex, MCI Telecommunications Corporation, which was Yerex's employer, and U.S. Fleet Leasing, Inc., which owned the truck Yerex was driving (the Original Defendants, collectively).

In January of 1994, the Original Defendants filed a writ of summons to join the City of Allentown (Allentown) as an additional defendant. *fn1 The Original Defendants then filed a motion to transfer venue from Philadelphia County to Lehigh County, relying on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. On March 11, 1994, the trial court denied the Original Defendants' petition to transfer venue, rejecting their forum non conveniens argument. *fn2 In the meantime, Allentown filed a petition to transfer the case to Lehigh County, pursuant to Section 333 of the JARA Continuation Act of 1980 (JCA), Act of October 5, 1980, P.L. 693, as amended, 42 P.S. § 20043, which provides in part:

Actions . . . for claims against a local agency may be brought in and only in a county in which the local agency is located or in which the cause of action arose or where a transaction or occurrence took place out of which the cause of action arose.

42 P.S. § 20043.

The trial court granted Allentown's motion to transfer venue pursuant to Section 333 because Allentown is located in Lehigh County, and the accident occurred there. On appeal, a Commonwealth Court panel reversed the trial court. *fn3 Analogizing to Chen v. Philadelphia Electric Co., Pa. Commw. , 661 A.2d 25 (1995), appeal dismissed, 545 Pa. 231, 680 A.2d 1156 (1996)(interpreting Commonwealth agency venue provisions), the court reasoned that Section 333 applies only when the local agency is an original defendant, not when it is joined as an additional defendant. The Honorable James R. Kelley Dissented without opinion.

Both Allentown and the Original Defendants filed Petitions for Allowance of Appeal. We granted allowance of appeal in both petitions to determine whether the Commonwealth Court improperly limited application of the political subdivision venue provisions to cases where the local agency is an original defendant.

Discussion

Regarding the venue of actions against political subdivisions, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil ...


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