In Lewittman v. Mt. Vernon Fire Insurance Company, Philadelphia’s Commerce Court dismissed a putative Pennsylvania bad faith claim on forum non conveniens grounds. The event an issue was a building fire in Baltimore. The insureds were New Yorkers who owed the building in Maryland. The insurance policy was procured through the additional defendant insurance agency located in Maryland, and was issued by an Pennsylvania carrier through its agent in Maryland.
All private and public factors weighed heavily in favor of transferring the case. The insureds were not domiciled in nor residents of Pennsylvania, and did not maintain any office or conduct any business in Pennsylvania. The fire damaged building was in Maryland. The insureds established no connection to Pennsylvania beyond the location of the insurer. The witnesses and access to all sources of proof are in Maryland. No Pennsylvania court has jurisdiction over the Maryland witnesses. Maryland has the most significant interest in this case. Maryland insurance law, not Pennsylvania bad faith law applies. Pennsylvania’s bad faith statute was enacted to protect Pennsylvania insureds and it does not have extraterritorial application in a case with this factual situation. Further, the insureds have an alternative forum available in Maryland since the Maryland statute of limitations of three years has not yet expired. Therefore, Philadelphia’s business court granted the insurer’s motion for dismissal of this lawsuit with leave to be refilled in Maryland.
Date of Decision: December 4, 2008
Lewittman v. Mt. Vernon Fire Ins. Co., February Term 2008, No. 185, 2008 Phila Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 265 (2008)(C.C.P. Philadelphia)(Bernstein, J.)