Appeal from the Order entered November 4, 2008 In the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County Civil at No. 2007 Civil 09859.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Freedberg, J.
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J., PANELLA and FREEDBERG, JJ.
¶ 1 This matter is before the Court on the appeal of Susan Yacovelli, the administratrix of the estate of Christopher Aranda. She appeals from the order entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County on November 4, 2008, denying her motion to open a judgment of non pros in her wrongful death and survival case against Dr. Vidyashankar Ponnathpur.
¶ 2 On November 5, 2007, Appellant commenced proceedings by way of writ against nineteen defendants. On April 10, 2008, Appellant filed a complaint, containing averments against fifteen of the original nineteen defendants. Appellant entered into a stipulation of dismissal with the remaining four defendants. The complaint contained, inter alia, claims against Dr. Ponnathpur and against Medical Associates of Monroe County, Dr. Ponnathpur's employer, based on a theory of vicarious liability. Because it was a professional liability suit, Appellant was required by Pa.R.C.P. 1042.3*fn1 to submit a certificate of merit for each named licensed professional. The certificates were to be submitted either with the complaint or within sixty days of filing the complaint. Appellant attached fourteen certificates of merit to the complaint; a certificate of merit relating to Dr. Ponnathpur's conduct was not submitted.
¶ 3 On June 10, 2008, one day after the sixty day time period to file certificates of merit expired, Dr. Ponnathpur filed a praecipe for entry of judgment of non pros. Judgment was entered the same day. On June 17, 2008, Appellant filed a "Petition to Open/Strike Judgment of Non Pros and Permit Filing of a Certificate of Merit Nunc Pro Tunc." On November 4, 2008, the trial court denied Appellant's petition.
¶ 4 When reviewing a refusal to open a judgment of non pros, "we may reverse the decision of the trial court only if we find that the trial court abused its discretion in reaching its determination." Yee v. Roberts, 878 A.2d 906, 910 (Pa. Super. 2005). "This means that the trial court's decision will be overturned only if [it] reflects manifest unreasonableness, or partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will, or such lack of support as to be clearly erroneous." Womer v. Hilliker, 908 A.2d 269, 279 (Pa. 2006) (citations omitted).
¶ 5 This Court described the purpose and application of Rule 1042.3 as follows:
Rule 1042.3 provides that in an action based on an allegation that a licensed professional deviated from an acceptable professional standard, the plaintiff's attorney shall file a certificate of merit with the complaint or within 60 days after the filing of the complaint. Pa. R. Civ. P. 1042.3(a). The certificate certifies that another appropriate licensed professional has supplied a written statement that there is a basis to conclude that the care, skill, or knowledge exercised or exhibited by the defendant in the treatment, practice, or work that is the subject of the complaint fell outside acceptable professional standards and that such conduct was a cause in bringing about the harm. A separate certificate must be filed as to each licensed professional named in the complaint. Pa. R. Civ. P. 1042.3(b). Under Rule 1042.3(d), the court upon good cause shown shall extend the time for filing a certificate of merit for a period not to exceed 60 days. Pa. R. Civ. P. 1042.3(d). This rule does not impose any restrictions on the number of extension orders that the court may enter.
If a plaintiff fails to file either a certificate of merit within the required time or a request for an extension, Rule 1042.6 provides that the prothonotary, on praecipe of the defendant, shall enter a judgment of non pros against the plaintiff.
Hoover v. Davila, 862 A.2d 591, 593 (Pa. Super. 2004).
¶ 6 Appellant contends that the petition to open should have been granted based upon Pa.R.C.P. 3051, because the three-step test for relief from a judgment of non pros was satisfied; alternatively, she contends that relief was warranted under Pa.R.C.P. 126, because she substantially complied with the requirements of Rule 1042.3. Appellant argues that fairness and equitable considerations require ...