Pennsylvania Superior Court Affirms- Jack Frost Ski Area Can’t Be Sued in Philadelphia re: Venue
In a recent non-precedential opinion in the case of Gordon v. JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., No. 1454 EDA 2014 (Pa. Super. April 28, 2014), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a Philadelphia County ruling ordering that the case be transferred to Carbon County based upon preliminary objections alleging improper venue.
In this case, Plaintiffs had filed a complaint in Philadelphia County against multiple defendants, including Jack Frost Ski Area, seeking recovery for injuries sustained while at the Carbon County skiing destination. Plaintiffs alleged that venue was proper pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 2179 as defendants regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County. Defendants filed preliminary objections seeking to have the case transferred to Carbon County alleging that their business activity in Philadelphia was not sufficient to sustain venue there. After reviewing evidence on this issue, the Philadelphia Court agreed and transferred the case to Carbon County.
The evidence submitted indicated that Jack Frost’s lift tickets can be purchased either over the internet or at the facility in Carbon County. While all transactions could not be tracked, roughly 4.7% of all lift tickets were purchased by residents of Philadelphia. The evidence further indicated that Jack Frost conducts significant advertising activities and promotional events in Philadelphia. Nonetheless, the Superior Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court.
This ruling is a bit of surprise in light of some other recent Superior Court decisions holding that a corporate defendant deriving as little as 2% of their revenue from Philadelphia County was sufficient to establish venue under Pa.R.C.P. 2179. See Lugo v. Farmers Pride, Inc., 967 A.2d 963, 971 (Pa. Super. 2009); Zampana-Barry v. Donaghue, 921 A.2d 500 (Pa. Super. 2007). It would appear that the Gordon Court focused on the fact that no actual lift ticket sales occurred in Philadelphia County. The Court emphasized the fact that tickets purchased through the Jack Frost website, which is administered by a California company, involves transferring money through a third-party bank. All other tickets were sold at the mountain itself in Carbon County. The Court further determined that all Philadelphia-based promotional events and advertising were incidental to Jack Frost’s business and insufficient to establish venue.