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Shipley Fuels Marketing, LLC v. Michael P. Medrow and Anne F. Medrow and andrew Johnson and Dona Saporosa

February 13, 2012


Appeal from the Summary Judgment Entered June 27, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County Civil Division at No(s): 09-14042-JD

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bender, J.




Shipley Fuels Marketing (Shipley) appeals the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Andrew Johnson and Dona Saporosa (the Johnsons), refusing to enter a lien on real property pursuant to Shipley's confession of judgment after title was transferred to the Johnsons. Shipley contends that the Johnsons had ample notice of the existence of the judgment and that, notwithstanding the requirements of the Rules of Civil Procedure, entry of the judgment in the Chester County judgment index should not be deemed necessary to assure imposition of a judgment lien. Upon review, we find Shipley's claims without merit. Accordingly, we affirm the entry of summary judgment.

This appeal follows a failed attempt by Shipley to obtain lien priority for a confessed judgment over a fee simple interest in real property created by the Johnsons' purchase of that property from Michael P. Medrow and Anne F. Medrow (the Medrows). The property in question consists of a residence and the surrounding curtilage at 1385 Beau Drive, West Chester, formerly owned by the Medrows. At a real estate closing conducted November 16, 2009, the Johnsons entered final settlement on the property for the sum of $462,675.00, and occupied the property that same day. Their deed to the property was recorded 18 days later, on December 4, 2009.

After the Johnsons had closed on the property, but before their deed was recorded, Shipley confessed judgment on a personal guarantee given by the Medrows of a debt of $116,207.72, for fuel deliveries to the Lancaster Travel Plaza, a business the Medrows owned. In its Complaint in Confession of Judgment, Shipley averred that the Medrows were guarantors of obligations of Lancaster Travel Plaza, LLC, and that the business itself had failed to pay those obligations. Although the Prothonotary's docket in Chester County documents that Shipley filed the confessed judgment on November 30, 2009, some four days before the recording of the Johnsons' deed, the record also establishes that judgment was not recorded in the judgment index until several weeks later, on December 30, 2009.

Subsequently, on May 17, 2010, Shipley filed a Praecipe for Writ of Revival seeking to revive a purported lien on the Beau Drive property and naming the Medrows as defendants and the Johnsons as terre-tenants, or actual possessors of the land. The Johnsons (but apparently not the Medrows) filed a timely Answer and New Matter to Praecipe for Writ of Revival, denying their status as mere terre-tenants, pleading their purchase of the property, and asserting the aforesaid chronology of the respective docket and judgment index. Thereafter, the Johnsons filed the motion for summary judgment that underlies this appeal, to which Shipley responded with a counter-motion for summary judgment. In support of their motion, the Johnsons argued that a judgment does not create a lien until recorded in the judgment index and that in view of the transfer of the property and recording of the deed prior to entry of the judgment in this case, no lien was created against the Beau Drive property. Shipley argued to the contrary that inasmuch as the confessed judgment was present on the Prothonotary's docket prior to the recording of their deed, the Johnsons were on notice of it and could not avoid the imposition of the lien.

Following oral argument, the trial court, The Honorable Edward Griffith, determined that the date on which the confessed judgment was entered in the judgment index was controlling of any lien priority. Inasmuch as the judgment was not indexed until well after the record transfer of the deed, the court concluded that no lien had been created on the Beau Drive property. Trial Court Opinion, 9/6/11, at 1-2 (unnumbered). Shipley then filed this appeal, raising the following question for our review:

Did the [trial court] commit an error of law in holding that [the Johnsons'] deed was recorded prior to the indexing of Appellant Shipley's judgment by confession such that the court improperly granted [the Johnsons] motion for Summary Judgment and struck Shipley's judgment against 1385 Beau Drive?

Brief for Appellant at 4.

The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure allow disposition of a case on summary judgment only where the record demonstrates an absence of factual questions material to the elements of the disputed causes of action. We have held accordingly that:

"[A] proper grant of summary judgment depends upon an evidentiary record that either (1) shows the material facts are undisputed or (2) contains insufficient evidence of facts to make out a prima facie cause of action or defense [.]" Under [Civil] Rule 1035.2(2), "if a defendant is the moving party, he may make the showing necessary to support the entrance of summary judgment by pointing to materials which indicate that the plaintiff is unable to satisfy an element of his cause of action." Correspondingly, "[t]he non-moving party must adduce sufficient evidence on an issue essential to its case and on which it bears the burden of proof such that a jury could return a verdict favorable to the non-moving party."

Basile v. H & R Block, Inc., 777 A.2d 95, 100-01 (Pa. Super. 2001) (citations omitted). Thus, a plaintiff's failure to adduce evidence to substantiate any element of his cause of action entitles the defendant to summary judgment as a matter of law. See Ertel v. Patriot-News Co., 544 Pa. 93, 674 A.2d 1038, 1042 (1996). As with all questions of law, our scope of review of a trial court's order granting summary judgment is plenary. See id. at 1041. Our standard of review is the same as that of the trial court; we must review the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party granting [him] the benefit of all reasonable inferences and resolving all doubts in [his] favor. ...

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