THE HARTFORD INSURANCE GROUP ON BEHALF OF CHUNLI CHEN, Appellant
KAFUMBA KAMARA, THRIFTY CAR RENTAL, AND RENTAL CAR FINANCE GROUP, Appellees
from the Order of February 25, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): No.
BEFORE: OLSON, SOLANO and FITZGERALD, [*] JJ.
The Hartford Insurance Group ("Hartford") on behalf
of Chunli Chen, appeals from the order entered on February
25, 2016, which sustained the preliminary objections filed by
Kafumba Kamara, Thrifty Car Rental, and Rental Car Finance
Group (hereinafter, collectively "the Defendants").
We respectfully vacate and remand.
instituted the current suit on September 15, 2015, by filing
a praecipe for a writ of summons. Within
Appellant's later-filed complaint, Appellant declared, in
the caption of the complaint, that the plaintiff was
"The Hartford Insurance Group on behalf of Chunli
Chen." Appellant's Complaint, 12/8/15, at Caption.
Appellant averred, on October 10, 2013, Chunli Chen
(hereinafter "Chen") "was standing in the
parking lot of Thrifty Car Rental, waiting to rent a car,
when she was struck by a rental car operated by defendant,
Kafumba Kamara, and owned by defendant, Thrifty Car Rental,
and/or defendant, Rental Car Finance Group."
Id. at ¶ 12 (some internal capitalization
omitted). Appellant averred that the accident caused Chen
extensive injuries and Appellant alleged that the Defendants
were negligent in causing the accident. Id. at
within Appellant's complaint, Appellant averred that, at
the time of the accident, Chen "was in the employ of
Reliance Sourcing, Inc." and that Hartford "has
paid $59, 424.71 to date in medical and wage benefits to 
Chen pursuant to a Workers' Compensation insurance policy
maintained by her employer, Reliance Sourcing, Inc."
Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.
complaint contained two negligence counts and, in each count,
Appellant claimed that the particular defendant was
"liable to Plaintiff, [ ] Hartford, and to Chunli Chen
for injuries caused to her by" the defendant. The
complaint was then verified by "Jaime Young[;]
Workers' Compensation Subrogation Specialist[;] The
Hartford" and the verification declared that "[t]he
averments and allegations of fact made in the foregoing civil
complaint are true and correct to the best of [Jaime
Young's] information and belief." Id. at
Verification (some internal capitalization omitted).
January 26, 2015, the Defendants filed preliminary objections
to Appellant's complaint. The Defendants' first
preliminary objection was in the nature of a demurrer and
claimed that the entire complaint must be dismissed because
Hartford was "attempting to file suit to assert
subrogation rights directly against the alleged third-party
tortfeasors." The Defendants' Preliminary
Objections, 1/26/16, at ¶ 5. The Defendants argued:
While Pennsylvania law does allow for a workers'
compensation carrier to be subrogated to the rights of the
employee, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held, based on
long-standing precedent established by Pennsylvania's
Superior Court[, ] that "the right of action against a
third-party tortfeasor under Section 319 of the [Workers'
Compensation Act] remains in the injured employee, and that
the employer/insurer's right of subrogation under Section
319 must be achieved through a single action brought in the
name of the injured employee or joined by the injured
employee." Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Domtar
Paper Co., 113 A.3d 1230 (Pa. 2015).
Defendants' Preliminary Objections, 1/26/16, at ¶ 9.
to the Defendants, since Chen was the injured employee and
since Chen neither assigned her cause of action to Hartford
nor was a party to the lawsuit, the entire complaint must be
dismissed. Id. at ¶¶ 13-16.
the Defendants claimed that the complaint must be stricken
because Chen did not verify the complaint. The Defendants
further claimed that the individual who did verify the
complaint - an employee of Hartford named Jaime Young -
"was not present at the scene of the alleged accident
and has no first-hand knowledge of the alleged accident from
which to allege the facts pleaded in [the] complaint."
Id. at ¶ 20.
responded to the preliminary objections and claimed that the
Supreme Court's holding in Domtar Paper was
inapplicable to the case at bar because "[i]n the
Domtar [Paper] case, Liberty Mutual filed
suit 'as subrogee of' [the injured employee, while,
in the case at bar, ] Hartford  captioned the suit 'on
behalf of Chunli Chen' to show [that Hartford is]
appropriately pursuing this action in the name of the injured
employee." Appellant's Response, 2/15/16, at
¶¶ 11 and 14. Further, Appellant claimed that the
verification in the complaint was proper because Jaime Young
"has knowledge of the facts contained in the complaint
through her work on [Chen's] workers' compensation
claim." Id. at ¶ 18 (some internal
February 25, 2016, the trial court entered an order that
sustained both of the Defendants' preliminary objections
and dismissed Appellant's complaint with prejudice. Trial
Court Order, 2/25/16, at 1. Within the trial court's
later-filed opinion, the trial court reasoned that the case
was controlled by our Supreme Court's opinion in
Domtar Paper and that, in accordance with Domtar
Paper, dismissal was proper because Hartford was
attempting to bring an independent cause of action against
third-party tortfeasors. As the trial court explained,
"[u]nder Pennsylvania law, actions against a third-party
tortfeasor must be brought by the injured employee; the
workers' compensation insurance carrier has no
independent cause of action against the tortfeasor under
Section 319 of the Workers' Compensation Act." Trial
Court Opinion, 6/23/15, at 4.
the trial court held that Appellant did not properly verify
the complaint, as the complaint was not verified by Chen;
rather, the complaint was verified by Jaime Young, a
Worker's Compensation Specialist for Hartford.
Id. at 6. The trial court held that this
verification was improper because Jaime Young "was not
present at the scene of the accident and did not have
first-hand knowledge of the incident" and the
verification "did not state the source of Young's
information or the reason why the verification was not made
by a party." Id. Finally, the trial court
stated that it did not grant Appellant leave to amend the
verification because Appellant "failed to assert a
legally cognizable cause of action against [the] Defendants;
thus, granting [Appellant] leave to attach a sufficient
verification would have been futile." Id.
filed a timely notice of appeal and now raises two issues to
1. Did the trial court err as a matter of law in dismissing
[Appellant's] claim with prejudice when pursuant to
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Domtar Paper
Co., 113 A.3d 1230 (Pa. 2015), [Hartford] captioned the
suit "The Hartford Insurance Group on behalf of Chunli
Chen" to show that the action was appropriately brought
in the name of the injured employee[?]
2. Did the trial court err as a matter of law in dismissing
[Appellant's] complaint for lack of a verification signed
by use party plaintiff, Chunli Chen, when the attached
verification was signed by a representative of  Hartford
with knowledge of the claim; or in the alternative, did the
trial court err in dismissing the claim rather than ...