Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County in the case of Kenneth J. Adams, Gaylord Arnst, Lewis M. Bryson, Frank C. Chambers, Douglas R. Grabill, Jane C. Groff, James P. Kopp, Maris McCullough, Marcia D. (Dills) McDonough, Michael E. McDonough, Robert G. Newswanger, Mary E. Novak, W. Thomas Rohrback, Ivan Steele and John W. Weaver v. Solanco School District, No. 211 January Term, 1976.
Gerald E. Ruth, for appellants.
Christopher Mattison, with him Dale E. Lapp, Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Barber, for appellee.
Judges Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 343]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County that dismissed, for lack of prosecution, an assumpsit action against the Solanco School District (School District).
[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 344]
In January 1976, Kenneth J. Adams and 14 other persons filed, as co-plaintiffs, a 26-page complaint in assumpsit naming the School District as defendant. The plaintiffs were all professional employees of the School District, and alleged that their employer had been paying them according to a salary schedule below that mandated by the Public School Code of 1949.*fn1 The purpose of the suit was to obtain back-pay and other damages allegedly owing to each of the plaintiffs.
Defendant School District filed preliminary objections to the plaintiffs' complaint; however, those objections were overruled, on April 15, 1976. Over a period of several months after the overruling of the defendant's preliminary objections, the plaintiffs consented to about 5 separate written requests by the defendant for extension of time to answer the complaint. Finally, in February 1977, the defendant filed its responsive pleading: a 49-page answer that included 294 paragraphs of new matter and more than 100 exhibits.
After the School District had filed its pleading, the attorneys for the litigants agreed, in writing, to the following: that the plaintiffs had no need to reply to the defendant's new matter, until the attorneys could "exchange various materials and limit the areas of dispute." That agreement was made in July 1977.
As of October 1979, more than 2 1/2 years after the School District had filed its pleading, the plaintiffs had not filed a reply or any other pleading directed to the defendant's new matter. About October 23, 1979, the attorney for the School District contacted the plaintiffs' attorney, to ascertain if the plaintiffs planned to continue with their suit and, if so, when a response to the new matter could be expected. The School District's attorney was informed that the plaintiffs intended to pursue the case. That information
[ 68 Pa. Commw. Page 345]
was conveyed by counsel for the plaintiffs three weeks after the attorney for the ...