Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, at No. G.D. 84-03858
Stanley M. Stein, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
Charles A. Buechel, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellees.
Cavanaugh, Del Sole and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 453]
Plaintiff-Appellants appeal from the order entered by the Honorable Bernard J. McGowan quashing their appeal from the award entered in favor of the Defendant-Appellees by a board of arbitrators. For the reasons which follow, we reverse the order.
The Halls initiated the underlying action to recover damages allegedly sustained when the automobile being driven by Kathleen Hall was involved in a collision with the automobile being driven by Lonna Sue Reeb. In the Plaintiff-Appellants' complaint, it was alleged that Kathleen Hall suffered an injury which was permanent in nature as a result of the collision. At a pre-trial conciliation, Judge McGowan, over objection by counsel for the Halls, ordered the case transferred to arbitration.*fn1 The Halls' motion requesting that Judge McGowan reconsider his order was denied. Subsequently, the Halls failed to appear at the scheduled arbitration hearing and, accordingly, an award was entered in favor of the Reebs. As previously noted, the Halls' timely appeal from that award was quashed by order of Judge McGowan thereby prompting the instant appeal.
In quashing the Halls' appeal for trial de novo, Judge McGowan framed the issue as "whether or not a party ordered to Arbitration over her or his objection has the right to deliberately circumvent the transfer order by not appearing before the Arbitrators and then[,] upon entry of an ex parte[sic] default award against the party, appeal the same to the Civil Division for a Judge and jury trial." Trial Court opinion at 3. Parenthetically, we note that the Plaintiff-Appellants admit in their brief to this Court that "[b]y prior understanding between counsel so that the defense would not have to unnecessarily produce witnesses, Plaintiffs did not appear at the hearing . . . ." Brief for Plaintiff-Appellants
[ 382 Pa. Super. Page 454]
at 7. The Halls assert that despite their conduct, Judge McGowan, in the absence of a rule or legislative pronouncement, was without authority to quash their appeal for a de novo trial.
We begin our analysis with a review of the statute pertaining to compulsory arbitration, 42 Pa.C.S. § 7361. There, certain civil matters are required to "first be submitted to and heard by a board of three members of the bar of the court." 42 Pa.C.S. § 7361(a). The types of civil matters to which subsection (a) applies are set forth in subsection (b) and are not critical to our inquiry.*fn2 The process by which a party may appeal an award from the board of arbitrators is set forth clearly and unambiguously in 42 Pa.C.S. § 7361(d) which, in pertinent part, provides that "[a]ny party to a matter shall have the right to appeal for trial de novo in the court. The party who takes the appeal shall pay such amount or proportion of fees and costs and shall comply with such other procedures as shall be prescribed by general rules."
Rules 1301-1314 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, 42 Pa.C.S., apply to actions submitted to compulsory arbitration. Pa.R.C.P. 1308 specifies the steps necessary to perfect an appeal from the arbitrators' award. These prerequisites must be satisfied, as they are jurisdictional. Pullium v. Laurel School District, 316 Pa. Super. 339, 462 A.2d 1380 (1983). Pa.R.C.P. 1308(a) requires that "[a]n appeal from an award shall be taken by" filing the appropriate notice of appeal not more than thirty days after entry of the award, and payment of the arbitrators' compensation to the prothonotary, unless the court permits the appellant to proceed in ...