Appeal from Order, Entered September 20, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, Philadelphia County, NO. 2914 April Term, 1984
Richard Haefner, in propria persona.
Gene E.K. Pratter, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Cavanaugh, Olszewski and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 344]
At issue in this pro se appeal by Richard Haefner is whether the trial court properly granted preliminary objections thereby striking appellant's complaint on the basis that the previous entry of a judgment of non pros for failure to file a complaint on the same cause of action barred the filing of a new complaint.
Appellant, Richard Haefner, acting pro se, commenced a legal malpractice action by summons against appellee, attorneys, in August of 1983. He was thereafter served with a rule to file a complaint within twenty days. Haefner failed to file a complaint within that period of time, but did file an "Answer" to the rule, stating his desire to conduct discovery in aid of his preparation of a complaint, and seeking time to find an attorney to represent him. Appellees filed a praecipe to enter a judgment of non pros. Thereafter, appellant filed his complaint but, upon preliminary objections, the complaint was stricken. Haefner's petition to open the judgment of non pros was subsequently denied on May 24, 1984. On appeal to this court, a panel majority affirmed the order of the trial court. Haefner v. Sprague, No. 1873 Philadelphia, 1984 (Pa. Super.Ct. filed April 4, 1985). Meanwhile, Haefner had instituted the
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 345]
present action by summons in April of 1984, followed by a Complaint filed June 5, 1984 an "Amended Complaint" on July 6, 1984, and a "Reinstated Amended Complaint" on July 25, 1984. The present appeal is from the court's order on preliminary objections dated September 17, 1984 which struck the complaints.
[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 346]
The decision of the trial court and appellees' brief on appeal rely upon a single decision of this court for authority that the new complaint could not be filed. Bon Homme Richard, Etc. v. Three Rivers Bank, 298 Pa. Super. 454, 444 A.2d 1272 (1982). In that case, a panel majority affirmed an order which dismissed a complaint under Allegheny County Local Rule 229(e). The court held that under authority of International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. v. Philadelphia Electric Co., 250 Pa. Super. 378, 378 A.2d 986 (1977) the claimant failed to either seek permission to bring a second action or to properly reactivate the complaint which had been dismissed under the local rule. Indeed, in International Telephone, supra, the court adopted an "open judgment" standard for reactivation of complaints which were dismissed for unreasonable inactivity. Thus, in such situations it must be shown that: (1) the petition [for reactivation] is timely filed; (2) the reason for default [inactivity] is reasonably explained; and, (3) facts constituting a meritorious cause of action be alleged. The Bon Homme court found that the appellant there had failed to seek permission to file a second complaint or reactivate the previous complaint and, hence, dismissed the complaint. Indeed, therefore, if Bon Homme, supra, applies to the present action, the dismissal by the court below was proper since Haefner did not successfully seek to reactivate under the International Telephone and Telegraph standard nor did he seek permission to file a second complaint. We find the International Telephone and Telegraph and Bon Page 346} Homme line of cases,*fn1 however, to be inapposite. These cases are matters which were dismissed pursuant to local rules of court adopted pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Judicial Administration 1901. That rule, with its stated policy of promoting the prompt conclusion of matters pending in the judicial system, mandated the termination of matters which have "been inactive for an unreasonable period of time . . . ." 1901(a). Each court of common pleas is thus directed to make local rules for the implementation of the policy. As a "minimum standard" Rule 1901 provides that each party be given at least thirty days notice of opportunity for hearing on the proposed termination and if notice is given by publication matters may be reinstated for good cause shown. Accordingly, local rules enacted pursuant to Rule 1901 are intended to reach cases inactive for an unreasonable length of time, and may only be dismissed after reasonable notice. It would follow that ...