O'Brien and Ryan, LLP - Attorneys at Law
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Venue In Legal Malpractice Case Found Appropriate In County In Which Law Firm Conducts 3% Of Its Business

A client who sues its lawyer for legal malpractice may sue in any county in which the law firm regularly conducts business regardless of whether it has an office in that venue. Zampana-Barry v. Donaghue, 246 EDA 2006 (March 8, 2007).

A client sued his lawyer and his lawyer’s law firm for legal malpractice for mishandling of a personal injury suit against K-Mart Corporation. The client alleged that her lawyer failed to protect her right to proceed against K-Mart after K-Mart filed for bankruptcy. As a result, the client’s claim against K-Mart was dismissed on summary judgment.

The lawyer’s office is located in Philadelphia County but the client sued in Philadelphia County. The lawyer and his firm sought to have the case transferred to Delaware County alleging that venue was improper since they did not regularly conduct business in Philadelphia County. The trial court disagreed and found, after applying the quality-quantity test established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Purcell v. Bryn Mawr Hospital, 525 Pa. 237, 579 A.2d 1282 (1990), that the law firm performed acts in sufficient quality and quantity to establish venue in Philadelphia County.

The Superior Court reviewed the evidence relied on by the trial court and agreed that venue was proper in Philadelphia County. The evidence included statements made by the lawyer that the purpose of the law firm was to perform legal services and that 3-5% of the firm’s revenue came from representing clients in Philadelphia County in both state and federal courts. The Superior Court disagreed with the lawyer’s contention that since his office was located in Delaware County venue was improper in Philadelphia. It found that the fact that venue is present in Delaware County does not negate the existence of venue in Philadelphia County. It also found that the acts performed by the lawyer and his firm in Philadelphia were not incidental but, rather, were essential to the law firm’s existence.

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