Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, April T., 1968, No. 6649D, in case of Alexandra Meta and Nina A. Altman v. The Yellow Cab Company of Philadelphia.
Thomas Gibson, with him Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for appellant.
William A. Goichman, for appellees.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. Opinion by Packel, J. Dissenting Opinion by Hoffman, J. Watkins and Jacobs, JJ., join in this dissenting opinion.
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The greatness of the common law as a system of jurisprudence is ascribable to the principle that a rule which has no reason for its present existence should not defeat substantial rights. A corollary of that principle is the recognized practice of the courts to disregard matters de minimis.
A right of appeal is unquestionably a substantial right. In 1968 it was expressly made a constitutional right, Pa. Const., Art. V, § 9. As to compulsory arbitration proceedings, the constitutional right to appeal from the decision of the arbitrators was held to be mandated in view of the constitutional right to a jury trial. Smith Case, 381 Pa. 223, 112 A.2d 625 (1955). The right to appeal is not absolute and can be subjected to reasonable conditions.
The specific issue in this case is whether the defendant's appeal in compulsory arbitration was properly quashed because only $10 instead of $17.75*fn1 was paid to plaintiffs' attorney for record costs. The defendant in order to take the appeal had paid the filing fee and $120 to reimburse the county for the fees of the three arbitrators. The court below, after argument, had denied the motion to quash the appeal, but more than a month later it reconsidered the matter and quashed the appeal. It is admitted that prior to the end of the 20 day period for taking an appeal defendant's counsel called plaintiffs' counsel to obtain his costs and also wrote to him: "Because I have not yet received a copy of your bill of costs, I am enclosing our draft for $10.00, in payment of your costs of record. If this amount is not adequate, I will be glad to review it with you or,
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upon receipt of a copy of your bill of costs, will promptly consider the items listed therein." The amount awarded by the arbitrators for the plaintiffs was $3,000.
In another case currently before the Court, Holmes v. Broodno, 222 Pa. Superior Ct. 478, 294 A.2d 903 (1972), the award by the arbitrators was in the amount of $9,000 and the appeal was quashed because $20 was not paid as record costs, even though $122.50 had been paid to take the appeal. It was agreed by both sides the defendant's attorney within the 20 day period called, and wrote to, plaintiff's attorney, asking for the amount of plaintiff's costs, and that during the 20 day period he received no word from plaintiff's counsel.
Ancient cases have dealt with the issue when arbitration was compulsory only if demanded by one of the parties. A series of subsequent cases in the past eight years have dealt with the issue in connection with arbitration compulsory on all parties. The issue has become of much more importance because of the increase in the amount involved in compulsory arbitration in several steps from the original limit of $1,000 to the very recent limit of $10,000. The old and the new cases are to be given due regard but it must be in the light of the changed economic conditions and different concepts as to the sporting theory of justice which mechanically called for absolute technical compliance.
The requirement for the payment of costs in order to effect an appeal from arbitrators has an old history. The Act of March 20, 1810, 5 Sm. Laws of Pennsylvania 131, 135 contains the proviso in § XI: " Provided also, That no appeal shall be allowed to either party until the appellant pay all the costs that may have accrued on such suit or action." The Act of June 16, 1836, P. L. 715, § 27, 5 P.S. Section 71, as amended, and ...