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ALBRIGHT v. R. J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO.

January 22, 1979

Charles M. ALBRIGHT, Administrator of the Estate of Charles Albright, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
R. J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant. R. J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY, a corporation, Plaintiff, v. Charles M. ALBRIGHT, Administrator of the Estate of Charles Albright, Deceased, Defendant; Charles M. ALBRIGHT, Administrator of the Estate of Charles Albright, Deceased, Plaintiff, v. R. J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY, a corporation, and Gerald J. Weber, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

A review of the history of these related cases may provide a clue as to why the State and Federal court systems are so submerged in a morass of vexatious, over-litigated and sometimes frivolous claims that those cases which deserve the attention of the courts are often short-changed in terms of judicial time and so delayed that responsive and effective justice may be denied.

Background

 On October 27, 1965, Charles Albright, ("Albright, Sr.") filed Civil Action No. 65-1155 against the Reynolds Tobacco Company ("Reynolds") in this court, claiming that he had sustained damages from smoking Camel cigarettes, a product manufactured by Reynolds. Albright, Sr. died shortly thereafter on November 13, 1965, but the case was continued by his Administratrix, Mary Albright, his widow. After her death on November 17, 1973, their son, Charles M. Albright ("Albright"), became Administrator of the estate. That case will hereinafter be referred to as the "Original Federal Case."

 It was before this court for seven years, during which time five amended complaints were filed; there were many hearings and conferences and extensive discovery. Judge (now Chief Judge) Gerald J. Weber ultimately granted Reynold's Motion to Dismiss on October 23, 1972. Albright v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 350 F. Supp. 341 (W.D.Pa.1972). His decision was affirmed with modifications at 485 F.2d 678 (3d Cir. 1973), Cert. denied, 416 U.S. 951, 94 S. Ct. 1961, 40 L. Ed. 2d 301 (1974).

 In August, 1965, Albright, Sr., had also instituted in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (the "State Court") two other actions against Reynolds: Civil Case No. 2190 October Term, 1965, which was an action in assumpsit; Civil Case No. 2191 October Term, 1965, which was an action in trespass. Each of these actions was instituted by the filing of a praecipe for issuance of a writ of summons. *fn1" These writs were never served on Reynolds. They were reissued by Mary Albright on May 22, 1967 and again not served on Reynolds.

 On May 22, 1974 the praecipes were again issued, just 37 days after the U. S. Supreme Court had denied Certiorari in the Original Federal Case, but long after the statute of limitations had run and almost nine years after the death of Albright, Sr. This time the writs were served on Reynolds. Each writ stated on its face that the amount in controversy exceeded $ 10,000 exclusive of interest and costs.

 On June 20, 1974, Reynolds caused them to be removed to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). These actions (the "Removed Cases") were docketed at Civil Action Nos. 74-607 and 74-608, assigned to Judge Weber, and later consolidated. Removal of the two cases was based upon multiple grounds, including diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy alleged by plaintiff to be in excess of $ 10,000. On June 24, 1974, four days After the removal of those cases to this court, Albright filed complaints in the State Court. Contrary to what had been stated in the writs, each complaint claimed damages in excess of $ 3,000 But less than $ 10,000, and Albright then filed a motion in this Court to remand the Removed Cases to the State Court. Albright admitted that they had been properly removed by Reynolds, but claimed that they should be remanded because the amount of claimed damage was now under $ 10,000. Albright's motion to remand was denied by Judge Weber on August 6, 1974. Prior to that, on July 3, 1974, Reynolds had moved for summary judgment in the Removed Cases. Before Judge Weber had ruled upon Reynolds' motions, and while the Removed Cases were still pending before this Court, Albright filed an affidavit of bias on September 27, 1974, seeking to have Judge Weber recuse himself. Judge Weber declined to recuse himself. Albright then filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for a writ of Mandamus to cause Judge Weber to be removed. This was denied on October 31, 1974, and a similar petition was denied by the United States Supreme Court on January 27, 1975.

 On March 6, 1975, Judge Weber entered summary judgment in favor of Reynolds and against Albright in the Removed Cases on the grounds that Albright's claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations as a consequence of his failure to timely reissue the writs of summons.

 By Order of this Court dated October 31, 1972, Albright had been permitted to pursue the appeal in the Original Federal Case In forma pauperis. On March 25, 1975, Albright again filed a motion for leave to appeal the decision in the Removed Cases In forma pauperis. This time, however, on March 26, 1975, Albright's motion was denied by this Court. Albright then filed a similar motion with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which denied the same on April 29, 1975. The Court of Appeals' decision was without prejudice to the right of Albright to renew his motion promptly, supported by sworn statements stating in detail the assets (with valuations) and liabilities of the Estate, as well as the assets, liabilities, income and expenses of the "real beneficiaries" of the Estate. No such statements were ever filed, and Albright prosecuted the appeal in the usual fashion.

 On February 13, 1976, the judgment of this Court in favor of Reynolds in the Removed Cases was affirmed at 531 F.2d 132 (3d Cir. 1976), Cert. denied, 426 U.S. 907, 96 S. Ct. 2229, 48 L. Ed. 2d 832 (1976). Albright had not appealed this Court's order dismissing the Removed Cases on their merits, but only contested the failure of this court to remand the cases to State Court. The United States Supreme Court denied Albright's petition for a writ of Certiorari on June 1, 1976.

 Shortly after the denial of Certiorari by the United States Supreme Court in the Removed Cases, Albright apparently embarked upon an attempt to relitigate in the State Court this Court's judgments in the Original Federal Case and in the Removed Cases. On September 22, 1976, Albright filed a praecipe to reissue a writ in trespass in another action which had been instituted in the State Court ("Second State Court Action") on September 8, 1966 at No. 2876, October Term 1966. The original writ was not served on Reynolds and had not been reissued in the ten year period prior to September 22, 1976. Albright also filed a complaint against Reynolds at this time, which complaint alleged the same claims which formed the basis for the Original Federal Court case and the Removed Cases. Albright limited this claim for damages in his complaint to an amount in excess of $ 3,000 but less than $ 10,000.

 On October 18, 1976, Reynolds filed preliminary objections to Albright's complaint in the Second State Court Action, seeking to have that complaint dismissed with prejudice. On March 8, 1977, the State Court, sitting En banc, sustained Reynolds' preliminary objections in part and dismissed Albright's complaint. (See Opinion attached to Reynolds' complaint at No. 77-382). On April 7, 1977, Albright filed a notice of appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from the aforesaid March 8, 1977 order, which appeal has been stayed, at Albright's request and without prejudice to Reynolds, by Order of the Superior Court dated May 31, 1977.

 In addition to the praecipe for issuance of a writ of summons in trespass filed by Mary Albright on September 8, 1966, the Second State Court Action, Mary Albright, on September 22, 1966, filed a praecipe for issuance of a writ of summons in assumpsit at No. 3448 October Term 1966 in the State Court ("Fourth State Court Action"). The writ in assumpsit was issued on September 23, 1966, but was never served on Reynolds and consequently expired. No complaint has ever been filed, and there has been no activity of record in the Fourth State Court Action since that time.

 On April 4, 1977, Reynolds initiated in this Court Civil Action No. 77-382, styled R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Charles M. Albright, Administrator of the Estate of Charles Albright, Deceased (the "Reynolds Action"), the prayer for relief being a preliminary injunction enjoining Albright (i) from prosecuting the Second, Third and Fourth State Court Actions and (ii) from instituting any future litigation against Reynolds relating to the facts which formed the basis for the prior federal court judgments or (iii) taking any other action "designed to attack the prior judgments of this Court." The Reynolds Action was assigned to Judge Weber as being related to the Original Federal Court Case and the Removed Actions. On April 8, 1977, Reynolds filed a Motion For Hearing on its Motion for Preliminary Injunction (also filed the same day) and a Motion For Leave To Take Deposition of Plaintiff (this caption obviously should have read, "Motion for Leave To Take Deposition of Defendant"), both of which motions are usually granted as a matter of course by this court. The motion for hearing and motion for leave to depose Albright were granted by Judge Weber on April 11, 1977.

 Eleven days after Reynolds instituted its action, on April 15, 1977, Albright filed suit at Civil Action No. 77-427 in this Court against Reynolds and Judge Weber.

 In the Reynolds Action, Albright filed an objection to his giving his deposition and a motion for protective order; a motion and affidavit of bias seeking to have Judge Weber recuse himself; an answer to Reynolds' motion for preliminary injunction; a motion to dismiss Reynolds' complaint; and an answer to Reynolds' motion for leave to depose Albright. In the suit at No. 77-427, in addition to his complaint, Albright filed objections to his giving a deposition and a motion for protective order and a motion to strike Judge Weber's motion to dismiss.

 In addition to the aforesaid state and federal court litigation, Albright launched an attack on the final judgment of this Court in the Original Federal Court Case. On May 16, 1977, Albright filed the following documents in connection with 65-1155, the Original Federal Case:

 
1. A "Motion to Grant Extension Of Time To Allow The Filing Of A Petition For Rehearing On Petition For a Writ of Certiorari" in the United States Supreme Court in the Original Federal Court Case. This application was rejected by the Clerk of Court as out-of-time.
 
2. A "Motion For Order Permitting Petition For Rehearing After Expiration Of Filing Period As Set By Rule 40 Of The Rules of Appellate Procedure" in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in The Original Federal Court Case. This motion was denied by Order dated May 26, 1977.
 
4. A "Motion For Stay Of Appellate Proceedings" in the Second State Court Action in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This motion was granted by the aforementioned Order of May 31, 1977, without prejudice to Reynolds because of its conditional consent thereto.

 In each of the pleadings filed in this Court and listed above, Albright claims that this Court's judgment in the Original Federal Court Case should be re-examined on the basis of Albright's suspicion that Judge Weber acted out of some undisclosed personal bias against Albright in dismissing his complaint. Albright does not identify the exact nature of this supposed bias.

 I.

 Motions and Issues to Be Decided

 The following motions and issues are considered herein:

 1. At Civil Action No. 65-1155 Petition to Allow Writ of Error Coram Nobis filed ...


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