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Recent Federal Personal Injury Suit Reflects the Challenges of Taking Civil Action

A recently released opinion from the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals shows why obtaining experienced legal counsel is important to a successful outcome. In Freidrich v. Davis, an action stemming from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a woman filed suit after she suffered a broken arm during a flight.  In the action, the woman alleged that the man responsible fell on her and caused the break after he left his seat to wait in line for the restroom.  The district court dismissed the injured woman’s action after the man alleged to have caused the injury claimed that he was not domiciled in the United States.

Previous blog posts have discussed what an injured party must show in a personal injury action:  a duty by the at-fault party to the injured person, a failure to uphold that duty, an injury that resulted because of the failure, and damages that were incurred because of the injury.  While these elements are the primary focus of personal injury litigation, many other elements must be considered when charting the best course of legal action.  The location of the injury and the location of the parties involved can affect whether the suit can or must be filed in federal or state court.  For example, if a party to an action is a corporation, even if the injury occurred within one state, the corporation’s registered location may factor into where the lawsuit takes place.  The unique facts of an injury may reveal that greater remedies may be available under a particular federal or state statute, so a certain venue may increase the ability to maximize the damages recovered. 

In Freidrich, the parties were on an international flight to Germany.  The man alleged to have caused the injury had lived and worked in Germany since 1996, outside a six-month period in 1999 when he lived in Pennsylvania for work.  The man was born in Pennsylvania and resided in Pennsylvania for most of his life prior to leaving for Germany in 1996.  The man was still a citizen of the United States and voted by absentee ballot in national elections, using his mother-in-law’s Pennsylvania address for voting purposes.  While he had previously checked the Registration and Ballot box form showing an intent to return to the U.S., he testified during proceedings that he intended to remain in Germany with his wife for the remainder of his life. 

The injured woman filed suit in federal court, alleging the matter in controversy exceeded the sum or value of $75,000, and that the suit was between citizens of different states.  The district court determined that the man was not domiciled in the United States and thus was not subject to the civil action against him.  The appellate court looked at the case law, which states that in order to have diversity jurisdiction under federal law, the parties must be domiciled in the United States, which means it is the individual’s true, fixed, and permanent home and place of habitation.  The appellate court agreed with the lower court’s determination that the man was not domiciled in the United States and upheld the dismissal.

The Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys at Needle Law Firm have the litigation experience you need to determine what the best course of legal action would be for your individual circumstances and maximize the recovery you need.  If you have been injured, contact our office today at 570-344-1266.

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