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Martin v. Rite Aid of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 19, 2013

JOSEPH MARTIN, Appellant
v.
RITE AID OF PENNSYLVANIA, INC. AND NORTH BROAD DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, Appellees

Appeal from the Order Entered September 27, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): May Term, 2012 – No. 1367

BEFORE: BENDER, P.J., DONOHUE, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

OPINION

BENDER, P.J.

Joseph Martin (Appellant) appeals from the order entered September 27, 2012, sustaining the preliminary objections of Rite Aid of Pennsylvania, Inc. (Rite Aid) and North Broad Development Company (NBDC) (collectively, Appellees) and dismissing Appellant's complaint with prejudice. We reverse.

On May 16, 2010, Appellant was a business invitee of a Rite Aid store located at 2131 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19141.[1] NBDC owned the property and acted as landlord/lessor to Rite Aid. Appellant was on the premises to fill a prescription. When he attempted to leave, Appellant was robbed and assaulted by three males. Appellant sought help from security and other personnel employed on the premises, but his efforts were rebuffed.

Appellant filed a complaint on July 11, 2012, alleging negligence against Rite Aid and NBDC. He did not name his alleged assailants as defendants. Rite Aid and NBDC filed preliminary objections, asserting (1) failure to include the mandatory notice to defend, (2) failure to plead with sufficient specificity, and (3) failure to join indispensable parties. The trial court sustained those objections asserting that the three assailants were indispensable and dismissed Appellant's complaint with prejudice. The trial court did not rule on the remaining preliminary objections. Appellant timely appealed and compiled with Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). The trial court issued an opinion.

The sole issue in this appeal is whether Appellant's assailants are indispensable to his claims against Rite Aid and NBDC. See Appellant's Brief, at 4.[2]

In reviewing a trial court's grant of preliminary objections, the standard of review is de novo and the scope of review is plenary. The salient facts are derived solely from the complaint and pursuant to that standard of review, the court accepts all well-pleaded material facts in the complaint, and all inferences reasonably deduced therefrom must be accepted as true.

Keller v. Scranton City Treasurer, 29 A.3d 436, 443 n.12 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

The parties agree that the inquiry into whether Appellant's assailants are indispensable to his claims against Rite Aid and NBDC must be analyzed within the framework set forth in Mechanicsburg Area Sch. Dist. v. Kline, 431 A.2d 953 (Pa. 1981), which identified the following considerations:

1. Do absent parties have a right or an interest related to the claim?
2. If so, what is the nature of that right or interest?
3. Is that right or interest essential to the merits of the issue?
4. Can justice be afforded without violating the due process rights ...

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