Civil Practice

Legal Malpractice, Bad-Faith Case Moved From Phila. to Dauphin

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Harrisburg

A firm's reference on its website to an office in Exton, Pa., accommodating "its clients in Philadelphia and the surrounding Delaware Valley" does not show that the firm had enough business in the city to keep a legal malpractice case in Philadelphia courts, the Superior Court has ruled.

In the decision, which upholds a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ruling transferring the case to the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, the court decided that the website reference and the firm's "infrequent" business in Philadelphia were insufficient to overrule the transfer.

Writing the memorandum opinion in Schriner v. Latsha Davis Yohe & McKenna, Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan relied on the state Supreme Court's 1990 decision in Purcell v. Bryn Mawr Hospital, holding that advertisements in a Philadelphia phonebook and newspaper were not sufficient to require Philadelphia venue.

"The same sort of advertisement appearing on an Internet website is not treated any differently," she said. "The trial court's determination that appellees have not regularly conducted business in Philadelphia County is supported by the record."

In a separate ruling involving matters stemming from the same toxic tort, the Superior Court further found that the case against several insurers was likewise properly moved to Dauphin County from Philadelphia.

Judges Susan Peikes Gantman and William H. Platt joined the opinion. Platt wrote the memorandum opinion for the decision in Schriner v. One Beacon Insurance, the case against the insurance carriers.

Both cases stem from a toxic tort claim litigated in Dauphin County. Plaintiffs Michael and Robin Schriner alleged that they were exposed to toxic mold in a property they rented in Dauphin County.

After the jury awarded $5.1 million for the plaintiffs' allegedly resultant brain damage and breast cancer, several insurance carriers, including One Beacon Insurance Co., sought to intervene in the underlying action and strike the judgment.

The Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas granted the intervention and struck the judgment, and the Schriners then filed suit in Philadelphia against the insurance carriers alleging bad faith, negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair trades, among other things.

The Schriners also filed a separate claim against attorneys Kevin M. McKenna and Mark Morford, and their firm, Latsha Davis Yohe & McKenna, alleging legal malpractice. Although Shogan's opinion did not explain who the attorneys represented, an earlier opinion described the attorneys as representing the property owners.

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