Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Perry County, Civil at No. 83-477.
Michael J. Daley, Harrisburg, for appellants.
Shaubut C. Walz, III, Public Defender, Newport, for appellee.
Wieand, Montemuro and Johnson, JJ. Wieand, J., files a dissenting opinion.
[ 363 Pa. Super. Page 522]
Appellants, Garry W. Raub and R. Keith Raub, challenge an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Perry County. The order confirmed a viewers' report that recommended the opening of a private road across the Raubs' land. Because the trial court has yet to decide the issue of damages, we quash this appeal as interlocutory.*fn1
[ 363 Pa. Super. Page 523]
Appellee, Carrie E. Beers, instituted an action against the Raubs by petitioning the court pursuant to the Act of June 13, 1836, P.L. 551, § 11, 36 P.S. § 2731. Ms. Beers sought to open a road along the edge of a field owned by the Raubs. This road would connect Ms. Beers' allegedly landlocked property to the nearest accessible highway. The court granted the petition and appointed a board of view, which examined the property in question and held an evidentiary hearing. The viewers filed a report in which they recommended that the court open a road 20 feet wide and 693 feet long and that Ms. Beers pay the Raubs $1000 in damages for the taking of approximately one-third of an acre. The Raubs filed an "appeal" to the court of common pleas from this report. The "appeal" challenged the sufficiency of the damage award as well as the viewers' findings of fact and conclusions of law. By order filed May 19, 1986, the court confirmed the report and dismissed the Raubs' "exceptions." The court added, however, that the Raubs should list the case for trial within 30 days if they desired "a trial by jury on the issue of damages."*fn2 The Raubs filed a timely notice of appeal from the order and at the same time praeciped the prothonotary to list the case for a jury trial on the damages issue.
Our courts have consistently and for many years discouraged multiple appeals in a single case. The fair and efficient administration of justice cannot tolerate "piecemeal determinations and the consequent protraction of litigation." Fried v. Fried, 509 Pa. 89, 97, 501 A.2d 211, 215 (1985) (quoting Sullivan v. Philadelphia, 378 Pa. 648, 649, 107 A.2d 854, 855 (1954)). See also Pugar v. Greco, 483 Pa. 68, 394 A.2d 542 (1978); Praisner v. Stocker, 313 Pa. Super. 332, 459 A.2d 1255 (1983). Piecemeal review delays the
[ 363 Pa. Super. Page 524]
final resolution of the underlying action, bloats the costs of seeking judicial relief and favors the party who has the resources necessary to wear down with dilatory tactics a less-affluent opponent. See Fried v. Fried, supra, 509 Pa. at 97, 501 A.2d at 215. We therefore withhold appellate review in most cases until the trial court enters an order that "ends the litigation" or "disposes of the entire case." T.C.R. Realty, Inc. v. Cox, 472 Pa. 331, 372 A.2d 721 (1977). See also Fried v. Fried, supra; Praisner v. Stocker, supra. Of course, this "final judgment rule" has exceptions. Most notably, our supreme court has recognized that an otherwise interlocutory order is final and appealable when "(1) it is separable from and collateral to the main cause of action; (2) the right involved is too important to be denied review; and (3) the question presented is such that if review is postponed until final judgment in the case, the claimed right will be irreparably lost." Pugar v. Greco, supra, 483 Pa. at 73, 394 A.2d at 545. See also Bell v. Consumer Discount Co., 465 Pa. 225, 348 A.2d 734 (1975). In those rare circumstances when this court can review a case prior to termination of the proceedings below, the need for immediate action to preserve important rights outweighs the policy against "piecemeal determinations."
In the present case, the Raubs ask us to review the trial court's May 19, 1986 order even though that order did not dispose of the entire case. The trial court acknowledges in its memorandum opinion that the issue of damages remains unresolved. The Raubs therefore have praeciped the prothonotary of Perry County to list the damages issue for a jury trial. We find little difference, if any, between this case and one in which the court grants a default or partial summary judgment on the issue of liability but reserves for trial the issue of damages. We have consistently held that this kind of judgment is interlocutory and unappealable. See Sims v. Feingold, 329 Pa. Super. 437, 478 A.2d 868 (1984); Praisner v. Stocker, supra; ...