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Frank Gubbiotti and Linda Gubbiotti, H/W v. Michael Santey

June 26, 2012

FRANK GUBBIOTTI AND LINDA GUBBIOTTI, H/W
APPELLANTS
v.
MICHAEL SANTEY DEAN W. PAVINSKI AND SHERYL PAVINSKI, H/W APPELLANTS
v.
MICHAEL SANTEY



Appeal from the Order Entered of April 18, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County Civil Division at No(s): 10678-2008 8016-2008

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

J-A07027-12

BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., PANELLA, J., and MUNDY, J.

OPINION BY PANELLA, J.

Appellants, Frank Gubbiotti and Linda Gubbiotti, and Dean W. Pavinski and Sheryl Pavinski, (collectively, "Appellants") appeal from the order entered April 18, 2011 by the Honorable Chester B. Muroski, Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, which granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, Michael Santey. Appellants argue that the discharge of Santey's debts in bankruptcy does not impede their ability to pursue an action to collect damages from Santey's insurer for personal injury arising from a motor vehicle accident. After review, we find that because there was no timely objection to the discharge of Santey's debts, the trial court properly entered summary judgment in Santey's favor in the underlying personal injury action.

The facts of the underlying case are largely undisputed. Appellants' claims arise from an automobile accident involving Santey that occurred on August 12, 2006. Appellants subsequently filed Complaints against Santey alleging personal injuries resulting from the accident.

On January 17, 2010, Santey filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, which listed Appellants' personal injury claims as creditors holding unsecured non-priority claims. Appellants were provided notice of the Suggestions of Bankruptcy on January 18, 2010. On January 19, 2010 and January 21, 2010, respectively, Santey's bankruptcy counsel filed a Suggestion of Bankruptcy in Appellants' actions against Santey. On February 9, 2010, Santey's counsel in this matter forwarded a notice of the Bankruptcy filing. On May 14, 2010, the Honorable John J. Thomas of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ordered and granted discharge of all debts accumulated by Santey prior to the order date.

On June 28, 2010, Santey filed a motion seeking to amend his New Matter in the underlying personal injury actions to include the affirmative defense of discharge from bankruptcy and to obtain summary judgment on that basis. By order dated April 18, 2011, the trial court granted Santey's motion to amend, entered summary judgment in favor of Santey, and dismissed Appellants' claims. This timely appeal followed.

On appeal, Appellants raise the following issue for our review:

Whether the trial court erred in granting defendant/debtor/appellee's Motion for Summary Judgment when a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether plaintiff/appellant is entitled to recover from defendant/debtor/appellee's car insurance policy that was in effect at the time of the crash when defendant/debtor/appellee received a discharge in bankruptcy?

Appellants' Brief at 7.

Our standard of review of a challenge to an order granting summary judgment is as follows:

We may reverse if there has been an error of law or an abuse of discretion. Our standard of review is de novo, and our scope plenary. We must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party.

Executive Risk Indemnity Inc. v. CIGNA Corp., 976 A.2d 1170, 1172 (Pa. Super. 2009). Furthermore, [in] evaluating the trial court's decision to enter summary judgment, we focus on the legal standard articulated in the summary judgment rule. See Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2. The rule states that where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to relief as a matter of law, summary judgment may be entered. Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on an issue, he may not merely rely on his pleadings or answers in order to survive summary judgment. Failure of a non-moving party to adduce sufficient ...


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