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QUEEN CITY ELECTRICAL SUPPLY CO. v. SOLTIS ELECTRIC CO. (09/22/80)

decided: September 22, 1980.

QUEEN CITY ELECTRICAL SUPPLY CO., INC., APPELLANT
v.
SOLTIS ELECTRIC CO., INC., DEFENDANT, AND THE CEMENT NATIONAL BANK, APPELLEE



No. 49 January Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, entered October 20, 1978, at No. 1568, October Term, 1978.

COUNSEL

Robert M. Davison, Bethlehem, for appellant.

Howard E. Snyder, Allentown, for appellee Soltis Electric Co., Inc.

Irving W. Coleman, Allentown, for appellee The Cement Nat. Bank.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Larsen, J., joins.

Author: Kauffman

[ 491 Pa. Page 356]

OPINION BY THE COURT

This appeal is from an order of the Superior Court reversing the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County and opening a default judgment entered against a garnishee.*fn1 The issue here presented is whether a court should open a snap default judgment entered without notice against a garnishee one day after the time allowed for filing answers to interrogatories had expired where (1) the garnishee is a stranger to the underlying transaction, (2) the default was excusable, (3) the answers to interrogatories were filed one day after the default judgment was taken, (4) the garnishor would reap a windfall in excess of $20,000.00, and (5) although the petition to open was not filed for twenty months, the garnishor sustained no prejudice from the delay.

On July 15, 1974, appellant, Queen City Electrical Supply Co., Inc. ("Queen City" or "garnishor"), obtained a judgment by confession in an assumpsit action against defendant, Soltis Electric Co., Inc. ("Soltis"), in the sum of $24,759.17.*fn2 Queen City sought to execute upon the judgment by garnishing an account Soltis maintained with appellee, The Cement National Bank ("the bank"). A praecipe for writ of attachment execution and interrogatories were filed by Queen City on August 9, 1974 and served on the bank on August 12, 1974.

On August 15, 1974, the bank sent the interrogatories to its attorney, Jerome W. Burkepile, Esquire ("Burkepile"),

[ 491 Pa. Page 357]

    along with all information necessary to prepare answers. The completed answers, which revealed that Soltis' account contained $1,762.56, were delivered to the bank on August 21, 1974, and were promptly executed and returned to Burkepile the same day.*fn3

Burkepile, who was in poor health and working only part time, failed to file the promptly completed answers within the twenty day period required by Rule 3144(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. At 9:51 a. m. on September 4, 1974, the first day after service of the answers was due, Queen City, without any notice, entered a snap default judgment against the bank in the amount of $24,759.17.*fn4 Later that day, Queen City's counsel, Howard S. Epstein, Esquire ("Epstein"), notified the bank that the default ...


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