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MARSHA A. MARTIN v. GRANDVIEW HOSPITAL AND ROBERT J. LAVIN (05/02/88)

filed: May 2, 1988.

MARSHA A. MARTIN, APPELLEE,
v.
GRANDVIEW HOSPITAL AND ROBERT J. LAVIN, M.D., APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Order entered May 20, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Civil Division, No. 81-01138-11-6.

COUNSEL

Joseph P. Selfridge, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Stewart J. Eisenberg, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Wieand, Kelly and Hester, JJ.

Author: Kelly

[ 373 Pa. Super. Page 371]

This is an appeal from an order granting plaintiff's petition to reactivate a case which had previously been terminated for inactivity on the docket pursuant to local rule. Because we find that the trial court failed to apply the appropriate "good cause" standard for reactivation of such cases, we vacate the order reactivating the case and remand for further proceedings.

On July 9, 1980, plaintiff initiated this medical malpractice action against defendants Grandview Hospital and Robert J. Lavin, M.D., by filing a complaint with the Arbitration Panel on Health Care.*fn1 On December 1, 1980 plaintiff filed an election of jurisdiction*fn2 and the case was transferred to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The court file was somehow misplaced, and on February 6, 1981, plaintiff's attorney assisted the prothonotary's office in reconstructing the file by supplying the office with copies of the missing documents, including the complaint, the answer and plaintiff's answers to interrogatories.

No further activity appeared on the docket until May 3, 1983, when the docket indicates that the prothonotary sent

[ 373 Pa. Super. Page 372]

    notices that the action would be terminated within thirty (30) days for failure to prosecute unless one of the parties certified that the case was still active. The parties did not certify the case as active, and on January 17, 1984, the case was marked terminated by the prothonotary.

On February 3, 1987, plaintiff filed a petition to reactivate the case; the plaintiff subsequently filed a supplemental petition with accompanying affidavits. Upon consideration of the petition, the defendants' answer to the petition, and the parties' memoranda, the trial court on May 20, 1987 granted the plaintiff's petition and ordered the action reinstated. Defendants filed this appeal.*fn3

On appeal, defendants contend that the plaintiff's actions manifested an intention to abandon the case, and the trial court erred in granting the petition to reactivate the case. Our standard of review on appeal from an order granting a petition to reactivate is limited to ascertaining whether the trial court committed an abuse of discretion. Absent an error of law or a manifest abuse of discretion, such an order will be affirmed on appeal. Metz Contracting v. Riverwood Builders, Inc., 360 Pa. Super. 445, 520 A.2d 891 (1987); Moore v. George Heebner, Inc., 321 Pa. Super. 226, 467 A.2d 1336 (1983); see also Comment following Pa.R.J.A. 1901.

Pennsylvania Rule of Judicial Administration 1901, with its stated policy of promoting the prompt resolution of matters pending in the judicial system, mandates the termination of cases which have "been inactive for an unreasonable period of time . . . ." Pa.R.J.A. 1901(a). The rule directs each court of common pleas to formulate local rules for the implementation of the policy. Bucks ...


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