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MICHAEL F. BEAUSANG v. JOSEPH T. BERNOTAS AND BARBARA M. BERNOTAS (03/12/82)

filed: March 12, 1982.

MICHAEL F. BEAUSANG, JR.
v.
JOSEPH T. BERNOTAS AND BARBARA M. BERNOTAS, APPELLANTS



No. 657 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Action-Law, of Chester County at No. 157 October Term 1979.

COUNSEL

Joseph T. Bernotas, appellant, in pro. per.

William J. Brennan, King of Prussia, submitted a brief on behalf of appellee.

Wickersham, Beck and Popovich, JJ. Popovich, J., concurs in the result.

Author: Wickersham

[ 296 Pa. Super. Page 336]

This is an appeal from an order dismissing a motion to open a default judgment. Appellee Beausang filed a complaint in trespass and assumpsit on October 17, 1979, alleging appellants, Joseph and Barbara Bernotas, had not paid him money owed under a lease of a vacation home. Appellee further alleged that the Bernotases had damaged his vacation home during their stay there. Appellants filed no answer or appearance. On November 15, 1979, appellee Beausang took a default judgment for $1,136.31. The lower

[ 296 Pa. Super. Page 337]

    court denied the Bernotases' motion to open judgment and this appeal followed. We reverse.

In Queen City Electricial Supply Co., Inc. v. Soltis Electric Co., Inc., 491 Pa. 354, 421 A.2d 174 (1980), Justice Kauffman said:

In making the determination whether to open a default judgment, three factors usually are considered: (1) whether the default was excusable; (2) whether the party seeking to open the judgment has shown a meritorious defense, and (3) whether the petition to open has been promptly filed.

The sole remaining issue, then, is whether the petition to open was promptly filed. This is always an equitable determination which must be made in light of what is reasonable under the circumstances. Indeed, it is well established that where equitable circumstances exist, a default judgment may be opened regardless of the time that may have elapsed between the entry of the judgment and filing of the petition to open. See Baranofski v. Malone, 371 Pa. 479, 482, 91 A.2d 908, 909 (1952).

At the outset, we note that snap judgments taken without notice are strongly disfavored by the courts. As this court stated in Kraynick v. Hertz, 443 Pa. 105, 277 A.2d 144, [147] (1971):

The true purpose of the entry of a default is to speed the cause thereby preventing a dilatory or procrastinating defendant from impeding the plaintiff in the establishment of his claim. It is not [a] procedure intended to furnish an advantage to the plaintiff so that a defense may be defeated or a judgment reached without the difficulty that arises from a contest by the defendant.

Id., 491 Pa. at 356-61, 421 A.2d at 177-78 (citations omitted).

The facts of this case may be summarized as follows. The Bernotases leased a vacation ...


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