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Ranlett v. Kurt Weiss Greenhouses, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 22, 2013

JOHN RANLETT, Appellant
v.
KURT WEISS GREENHOUSES, INC., ET AL.,

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order of August 9, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division at No. 3405, December Term 2011

BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., WECHT and COLVILLE [*] , JJ.

MEMORANDUM

COLVILLE, J.

This is an appeal from an order that sustained Appellees' preliminary objection and that transferred the case from Philadelphia County to Northumberland County. We affirm.

The background underlying this matter can be summarized in the following manner. Appellant John Ranlett ("Appellant") filed a complaint, and later an amended complaint, against Appellees Kurt Weiss Greenhouses, Inc., Kurt Weiss-Danville, Kurt Weiss of NJ, Inc., Mt. Carmel Greenhouses, LLC., and Kurt Weiss of Pennsylvania, Inc. ("Appellees"). Appellant commenced the action in Philadelphia County.

[In his amended complaint, Appellant] alleges that on August 25, 2011, he suffered serious and permanent injuries due to a fall at a property located at Routes 54 and 61 in Mt. Carmel, PA, which is the location of Mt. Carmel Greenhouses, LLC, and the registered office of Kurt Weiss Greenhouses of Pennsylvania, Inc. Said location is within Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. [Appellant's] Complaint asserts five counts of negligence, individually, against [Appellees]. [Appellant] alleges that an unsafe and dangerous condition on the premises caused his fall and injury.

Trial Court Opinion, 10/26/12, at 2.

Appellees filed preliminary objections to Appellant's amended complaint. Appellees argued, inter alia, that venue was improper in Philadelphia County but proper in Northumberland County. The trial court explained the parties' positions and the court's reasons for sustaining the preliminary objection to venue in the following manner.

In the instant case, none of [Appellees] are located in Philadelphia County and the cause of action did not arise in Philadelphia County. Appellant therefore argues that venue in Philadelphia is proper because [Appellees] regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County. [Appellant] averred in his Amended Complaint that [Appellees] regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County and therefore that pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 2179(a)(c) venue in Philadelphia County is proper.[1]
In [Appellees'] Preliminary Objection to the Amended Complaint, Sal Silvestri, Chief Financial Officer of Kurt Weiss Greenhouses (KWG), executed an affidavit attesting that its total sales in Philadelphia County from 2007-2011 amounted to less than .2% of its total sales. This represented the sales within Philadelphia County of every entity affiliated with [KWG]. ([KWG] is the sales arm of [Appellees]. All other [Appellees] produce stock for [KWG]).
[Appellant] requested discovery limited to the issue of venue and his request was granted by the [c]ourt. [Appellant] deposed Mr. Silvestri on August 1, 2012. He reviewed sales information for a five-year period of sales within the Philadelphia market. Over the past five years, KWG's sales to Philadelphia customers ranged from 0.08% to 0.17% of total sales. Mr. Silvestri testified that the Mt. Carmel sales forces (6-8 people) does not regularly visit Philadelphia because the only customers KWG has in Philadelphia are corporate customers. Mr. Silvestri testified that KWG merely enters into contracts with the head corporate entities and the head offices determine where KWG should deliver the product. KWG does not make the deliveries themselves with their own trucks but relies on outside companies to do so.
While [Appellant] relies at length in his Supplemental Memorandum on the number of "customers" KWG has in Philadelphia County to prove the contacts of KWG are of sufficient quality and quantity for proper venue, [Appellant] counts each store of a corporation with whom [Appellees] have a contract as a separate consumer. Courts have consistently decided issues of venue based on the proportional amount of business done in a county. The percentage of income that Appellees generate from all contacts with the Philadelphia County market is extremely minimal. The necessary quantity of acts is not present to render Philadelphia County a proper venue. Furthermore, the quality of those acts are not sufficiently "continuous and efficient", as they are driven not by acts of [Appellees] at all but by the whims and demands of their corporate customers. These customers may decide tomorrow that [Appellees] should deliver no goods to Philadelphia ...

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