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High Court Widens Trial Judges’ Prerogative to Transfer Venue

August 22, 2014

The Legal Intelligencer
By Max Mitchell

The state Superior Court has not been giving trial court judges the proper discretion to grant venue transfers when witnesses hail from distant counties, the state Supreme Court said in a decision examining a 17-year-old standard regarding forum non conveniens.

In the high court’s ruling in Bratic v. Rubendall, issued Monday, Justice J. Michael Eakin, who wrote the court’s majority opinion, said the Superior Court’s prior ruling in the case improperly overturned a trial court’s decision to move the case from Philadelphia to Dauphin County.

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However, Jeffrey R. Lerman of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, who represented the defendants, contended that upholding the Superior Court’s ruling would impose an oppressive standard. Not only would defendants be required to prove that witnesses are gainfully employed and live a significant distance from the chosen venue, but also that they would suffer harsh consequences, such as being fired or causing a company to lose profits, due to the chosen venue.

“The draconian standard would make forum non conveniens practically unattainable,” Lerman had said to the Supreme Court during oral arguments in November.

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