No. 542 Pittsburgh, 1981, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, at No. GD 78-11573.
Howard T. Gilfillan, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Alan Shapiro, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Spaeth, Johnson and Hoffman, JJ. Johnson, J., concurs in result.
[ 304 Pa. Super. Page 484]
Appellant contends that the lower court erred in granting summary judgment because: (1) ordering the case to compulsory arbitration precluded action upon appellee's motion; and (2) appellant had adequately established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he had suffered a medically determinable physical impairment preventing him from performing substantially all of his customary activities for more than sixty consecutive days. We hold that the compulsory arbitration order did not prohibit the court from entertaining appellee's motion, but determine that summary judgment was inappropriate on the current record. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
Appellant commenced this action against appellee to recover for personal injuries he had sustained in an automobile accident. On March 19, 1981, appellee filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that appellant had failed to
[ 304 Pa. Super. Page 485]
overcome the statutory bar to his tort action by establishing a medically determinable physical impairment preventing him from performing substantially all of his customary activities for more than sixty consecutive days. On March 23, 1981, the lower court ordered the case to arbitration. Nearly a month later, it granted appellee's motion for summary judgment. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends first that by ordering the case to compulsory arbitration, the lower court effectively stayed proceedings and thus precluded summary judgment. Although the statutes and rules governing certain forms of voluntary arbitration*fn1 specifically provide that non-severable judicial actions or proceedings "shall be stayed if a court order to proceed with arbitration has been made," 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 7304, nothing in the relevant statutes and rules governing this compulsory arbitration requires such a stay. 5 P.S. § 21; Pa.R.Civ.P. 1044(d); Allegheny County R.Civ.P. 301 et seq.*fn2 Thus, there was no statutory or regulatory impediment to the concurrent actions of the court below.*fn3
[ 304 Pa. Super. Page 486]
The purposes underlying compulsory arbitration and summary judgment are, moreover, not so inconsistent as to warrant deferral of one procedure to the other. Our Supreme Court has recognized that compulsory arbitration, enabled by statute and implemented by local rule, helps "[r]emov[e] smaller claims from the [trial] lists," thus "pav[ing] the way for the speedier trial of actions involving larger amounts . . ., mak[ing] it possible for the immediate disposition of the smaller claims . . ., and free[ing] courts for the speedier performance of other judicial functions." Smith Case, 381 Pa. 223, 229, 112 A.2d 625, 629 (1955). Summary judgment procedures are likewise designed to aid the court and the parties to resolve those clearest of cases that present no genuine need for trial and are capable of resolution as matters of law. See, e.g., Amabile v. Auto Kleen Car Wash, 249 Pa. Superior Ct. 240, 376 A.2d 247 (1977). Accordingly, we hold that the lower court properly entertained appellee's motion for summary judgment during the pendency of compulsory arbitration proceedings.
Appellant contends next that summary judgment was inappropriate because his deposition, answers to interrogatories, and doctor's report establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he had suffered a medically determinable physical impairment preventing him from ...