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CHESTER HOUSING AUTHORITY v. JULIUS NICHOLAS (06/29/84)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


filed: June 29, 1984.

CHESTER HOUSING AUTHORITY
v.
JULIUS NICHOLAS, APPELLANT. CHESTER HOUSING AUTHORITY V. IRENE BLACK, APPELLANT. CHESTER HOUSING AUTHORITY V. MICHAEL COLLIER, APPELLANT

No. 2380 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Judgment entered March 16, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Civil Division, No. 78-15838. No. 2379 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Judgment entered March 16, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Civil Division, No. 78-18795. No. 2378 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Judgment entered March 16, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Civil Division, No. 78-18388

COUNSEL

Julius Nicholas, in propria persona.

Irene Black, in propria persona.

Michael Collier, in propria persona.

Ronald D. Ashby, Media, for appellee.

Spaeth, President Judge, and Beck and Tamilia, JJ.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 329 Pa. Super. Page 137]

These are appeals from final orders of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

Appellants raise two issues on appeal:

(1) Whether the lower court erred in denying a motion for continuance made by defense counsel when appellants were unable to appear for trial due to their involvement in an automobile accident; and (2) Whether the verdicts entered by the lower court were inconsistent with the evidence and testimony presented.

[ 329 Pa. Super. Page 138]

As this Court reverses the decision of the lower court denying the motion for continuance and finds that a continuance should have been granted, we do not find it necessary to consider the issue of inconsistent verdicts.

The relevant facts reveal that three of four defendants in cases consolidated for trial purposes were involved in an auto accident due to snow and icy road conditions on the way to court. A police officer at the scene called the trial judge's chambers and provided information about the accident. He indicated damage to the vehicle had occurred but no personal injuries had been sustained. The trial was postponed until the 2:00 p.m. session. By 2:00 p.m., defense counsel had been in contact with defendant, Nicholas, who informed her the car was inoperable but that three defendants had accepted a ride to Crozer -- Chester Hospital where defendant, Black, was treated for injuries. According to defendants, they were "shaken up" following the incident and unable to attain transportation to the courthouse due to road conditions. The person who drove them to the hospital did wait and take them home although he refused to drive as far as the courthouse.

The defense attorney requested a continuance to the next available court date which was denied. The trial judge then entered judgment against the three defendants unable to appear and ordered an abatement in the amount of rent demanded from the fourth defendant, who did appear.

As all parties involved agree, a continuance is discretionary and an inherent power of the court. Henley v. Com., State Civil Service Commission, 39 Pa. Commw.Ct. 286, 395 A.2d 330 (1978); Phillips-Farmer v. John Wanamaker of Philadelphia, 28 Pa. Commw.Ct. 600, 369 A.2d 1339 (1977); also see, Pa.R.C.P. 216(A), Grounds for Continuance.

Oral argument of the case was held in this court on March 20, 1984; appellants appeared pro se,*fn1 appellee was

[ 329 Pa. Super. Page 139]

    not represented. After consideration of appellants' arguments, the briefs and case law, this Court concludes the lower court abused its discretion in not granting a continuance under the circumstances. A continuance should have been granted pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 216(A)(2)*fn2 and appellants provided the opportunity to present evidence on their behalf.

The order and judgments of the court below are hereby vacated and the three cases are remanded for a new trial consistent with this opinion.

Jurisdiction is relinquished.


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