Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of Thomas J. Stapleton, Jr. and Richard L. Colden, Jr. and Stapleton, Colden & Cullen v. Chester Township, No. 81-06585.
James H. Gorbey, Jr., with him Christopher F. Gorbey, for appellant.
Richard L. Hughey, for appellees.
Judges Blatt, Craig and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 143]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County denying the Petition of the Township of Chester to open and/or strike a default judgment entered on November 17, 1981. We affirm.
On May 8, 1981, Thomas J. Stapleton, Jr., Richard L. Colden, Jr., and the firm of Stapleton, Colden & Cullen (Plaintiffs) instituted an action in assumpsit against the Township of Chester (Defendant) to recover fees due for legal services rendered on behalf of township officials during 1979 and 1980. Effective service of the complaint was made on July 1, 1981. Defendant filed no answer and on July 23, 1981, plaintiffs sent a ten-day notice of default letter pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. No. 237.1. Defendant then filed, on July 28, 1981, preliminary objections to the complaint. Plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition to the preliminary objections on August 28, 1981 and on September 17, 1981, the court of common pleas entered an order partially sustaining the objections and allowing Plaintiffs twenty days to amend the complaint by incorporating an exhibit from their memorandum which itemized the legal services rendered and fees due. The exhibit was filed on September 18, 1981 as an amendment to the original complaint, and was served on Defendant the same day.
On October 14, 1981, Defendant, through its solicitor, requested a thirty day extension of time in
[ 72 Pa. Commw. Page 144]
which to file an answer. By letter of October 20, 1981, Plaintiffs granted an extension until November 13, 1981, thirty days from the date of Defendant's letter of request. On November 17, 1981, when no answer was yet filed, Plaintiffs filed a praecipe for judgment in default for failure to file an answer. An order was entered the same day in the amount of $20,134.04.
Defendant filed an answer to Plaintiffs' amended complaint on November 23, 1981 and simultaneously petitioned the court to open judgment. A hearing was held on January 26, 1982 and on March 4, 1982 the court of common pleas entered an order denying the petition to open judgment. This appeal followed.
Denial of a petition to open judgment is a matter of judicial discretion and will not be reversed unless there has been an error of law or a manifest abuse of discretion. Fox v. Mellon, 438 Pa. 364, 264 A.2d 623 (1970). Defendant alleges error of law in the court's interpretation and application of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil ...