Kim v. Dep’t of Transp.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court addressed an issue of first impression involving venue in an action where the Commonwealth is a defendant. The plaintiff drove off the road in a construction zone in Delaware County and crashed into boulders on a neighboring property. The plaintiff filed a suit in Philadelphia against PennDOT, the general contractor, and the adjacent property owner. But the plaintiff did not live in Philadelphia, and the crash did not occur there. PennDOT settled, leaving the two private parties as defendants. The contractor and the property owner filed preliminary objections, arguing that the trial court was an improper venue for litigation under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8523(a) because PennDOT is a Commonwealth entity and the accident did not occur in Philadelphia County. Section 8523(a) provides that a person may sue the Commonwealth for negligence “in and only in a county in which the principal office or local office of the Commonwealth party is located or in which the cause of action arose or where a transaction or occurrence took place out of which the cause of action arose.” The Commonwealth Court held that any defendant in the litigation may raise an improper venue objection under Section 8523(a). Furthermore, the Court held that the trial court erred in determining that PennDOT’s agreement to waive venue objections as part of its settlement precluded the codefendants from asserting their right to object to improper venue.

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