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Roque Soto v. Nabisco

November 21, 2011

ROQUE SOTO, APPELLANT
v.
NABISCO, INC.; NABISCO BRANDS, INC.; NABISCO HOLDINGS CORP.; RJR NABISCO, INC.; R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO HOLDINGS; RJR NABISCO HOLDINGS CORP.; NABISCO GROUP HOLDINGS CORP.; REYNOLDS AMERICAN, INC.; NABISCO FOUNDATION; ALTRIA GROUP, INC; ALTRIA CORPORATE SERVICES, INC.; READING BAKERY SYSTEMS, INC.; READING PRETZEL MACHINERY CORP.; THOMAS L. GREEN & COMPANY, INC.; THOMAS L. GREEN, LLC; TRANSMISSION ENGINEERING COMPANY, INC.; AND R.A. JONES & COMPANY, INC., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order Entered April 18, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): 091004738 October Term, 2009

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gantman, J.:

J-A31038-11

BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., AND GANTMAN, J.

OPINION BY GANTMAN, J.:

Appellant, Roque Soto, appeals from the final order encompassing a stipulation of dismissal, entered in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which discontinued the case against the remaining defendants in this personal injury action. Specifically, Appellant challenges the court's earlier order dated May 4, 2010, which sustained the preliminary objections of Appellant's employer, Appellee, Kraft Foods Global, Inc. ("Kraft"), and dismissed the action against Kraft with prejudice. We hold Appellant's only recourse against Kraft for his injuries sustained in the workplace is under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act ("WCA").*fn1 Accordingly, we affirm.*fn2

The relevant facts and procedural history of this case are as follows. Appellant began employment with Nabisco at its Philadelphia Bakery sometime in 1999-2000. Through a series of negotiations, in July 2001, Nabisco merged into Kraft and ceased to exist as a separate company. Due to the merger, Appellant became an employee of Kraft. On November 1, 2007, Appellant injured his arm and hands while operating a Ritz Cracker Cutting Machine. There is no dispute that the accident occurred within the course and scope of Appellant's employment and caused amputation of his left arm and a de-gloving wound and avulsion injuries to his right hand. In response to the complaint Appellant filed on October 29, 2009, Kraft filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer, relying on the exclusive remedy of the WCA as a bar to Appellant's suit against Kraft. During discovery on the preliminary objections, documents revealed Nabisco had ceased to exist, after merging with and into Kraft.

By order dated May 4, 2010, and entered May 5, 2010, the trial court sustained Kraft's preliminary objections and dismissed Appellant's complaint against Kraft, based upon employer statutory immunity under the WCA. The court denied reconsideration as well as Appellant's request for certification for interlocutory appeal. The Superior Court later denied Appellant's petition for interlocutory review. By order entered April 18, 2011, the court dismissed the remaining defendants in the action per court-approved stipulation and without prejudice. Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal on May 10, 2011. The court did not order a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b), and Appellant filed none.

Appellant raises two issues for review:

WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE DEMURRER OF [KRAFT] IF THERE WAS NO SHOWING WITH CERTAINTY THAT NO RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE BY [APPELLANT]?

WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE DUAL PERSONA DOCTRINE WAS INAPPLICABLE TOWARDS A SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO A MANUFACTURER OF A DEFECTIVE PRODUCT WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE [APPELLANT'S] EMPLOYER BECAUSE [APPELLANT]

SUSTAINED INJURIES WHILE IN THE COURSE AND SCOPE OF HIS EMPLOYMENT?

(Appellant's Brief at 4).

Appellate review in this case implicates the following general principles:

Our review of a trial court's sustaining of preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer is plenary. Such preliminary objections should be sustained only if, assuming the averments of the complaint to be true, the plaintiff has failed to assert a legally cognizable cause of action. We will reverse a trial court's decision to sustain preliminary ...


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