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Hammond v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 1, 2015

Laurence Hammond
v.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Appellant

Argued: February 9, 2015.

Appealed from No. March Term, 2014, No. 3323. Common Pleas Court of the County of Philadelphia. New, J.

Richard E. Stabinski, Philadelphia, for appellant.

James M. Duckworth, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 406

MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court) overruling SEPTA's preliminary objection seeking the dismissal of the complaint filed by Laurence Hammond (Hammond).[1] SEPTA sought to compel arbitration in accordance with an agreement of the parties to arbitrate Hammond's claim for damages. The trial court refused because Hammond had invoked a revocation clause in the Arbitration Agreement. SEPTA contends that the trial court erred, inter alia, because Hammond's ability to revoke arbitration was a matter for an arbitrator, not the trial court, to decide. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the order of the trial court.

On April 13, 2012, Hammond was working as a SEPTA conductor when he injured his shoulder while in the course and scope of his employment. This injury gave rise to a personal injury claim against SEPTA under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § § 51-60. To reduce the delays, expense, and uncertainties of litigation, the parties agreed to resolve Hammond's claim by arbitration.

Page 407

Their Arbitration Agreement contained the following revocation clause:

Neither Party shall have the right or power to revoke the Agreement without the consent in writing of the other Party. However, either Party may revoke the Agreement in the event that by the close of discovery the Parties do not agree on the minimum (low) and maximum (high) amounts of the actual award and, if [Hammond] claims a permanent disability that precludes his/her return to work at SEPTA, [Hammond] does not agree to resign from the employ of SEPTA and release future medical payments and future indemnity payments under the Workers' Compensation Act.[2]

Reproduced Record (R.R. ) at 61a-62a (emphasis added).

On January 21, 2014, the Arbitrator entered a Case Management Order directing the completion of discovery by February 28, 2014, and scheduling the hearing for March 21, 2014. On March 19, 2014, Hammond advised the Arbitrator and SEPTA that he was unilaterally revoking the arbitration agreement and discontinuing arbitration under authority of the revocation clause. Hammond further stated, for the first time, that he was claiming a permanent disability ...


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