Are the Barriers to Changing Venue Becoming Less Onerous?

In Bratic v. Rubendall, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s granting of the defendant’s petition to transfer venue based upon forum non conveniens. This decision is significant because of the difficult burden a defendant must meet to satisfy the doctrine. Plaintiffs often bring actions in venue friendly jurisdictions, like Philadelphia, based solely upon a defendant’s contacts with the venue, regardless of the hardships imposed by the location.

The facts in Bratic were compelling. Defendants demonstrated that the witnesses and evidence were located in Dauphin County, over 100 miles from Philadelphia County. Requiring the depositions and trial be held in Philadelphia County would be a hardship to the defendants’ employees and the witnesses upon which the defendants would rely. To support their claim of undue hardship, defendants offered affidavits from seven witnesses, all of whom lived over 100 miles from Philadelphia asserting that having the case venued in Philadelphia would impose personal and financial hardship. For example, for every day of a deposition or trial in Philadelphia, the witnesses would be forced to take at least a full day away from work.

Even with these facts, the Superior Court overturned the trial court’s decision. On appeal, the Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s decision granting the petition to change venue based upon forum non conveniens. This ruling, once again, demonstrated the high burden a defendant must meet, but it at least provides a glimmer of hope that trial court’s will be willing to grant the transfer of venue, when the burden has been met.