Assailants Escape Leaving Store Holding the Bag (PA)

In Joseph Martin v. Rite Aid of Pennsylvania and North Broad Development Company, the plaintiff, Martin, was robbed and assaulted by three males while trying to fill a prescription at a local Rite Aid in North Philadelphia.  Martin subsequently sued Rite Aid and the owner of the building where the Rite Aid was located alleging negligence.  He did not name his assailants as defendants. 

Both defendants filed preliminary objections citing, among other things, that Martin failed to join indispensable parties (the assailants).  The trial court in Philadelphia county agreed and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.  Martin appealed, and the Superior Court overruled the trial court’s dismissal.  The Court analyzed this issue under the rubric of Mechanisburg Area Sch. Dist. V. Kline, focusing specifically on whether the assailants had a right or interest relevant to Martin’s complaint.  The Court reasoned that Martin alleged negligence against the defendants for failing to maintain and operate a safe premises for business patrons.  The wrongful act contemplated by Martin’s complaint is that Rite Aid failed to take precautions to prevent Martin’s assault, not the assault itself.  Thus, the assailants have no cognizable right or interest in Martin’s claims against the defendants and Martin’s case can proceed against the defendants.

Special thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution.

For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.