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[U] Highway Equipment and Supply Co. v. Arillotta

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

November 26, 2013



Appeal from the Order Entered August 3, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County Civil Division at No.: 2012-CV-509-NT




Albert Arillotta ("Appellant") appeals from the August 3, 2012 order denying his petition to strike/open a confessed judgment entered on January 20, 2012 for Highway Equipment & Supply Co. ("Appellee"). We affirm.

This case concerns two heavy equipment rental contracts that were executed between Appellant and Appellee on or about March 17, 2011, and May 16, 2011, respectively. See Appellee's Complaint for Confession of Judgment, 1/20/2012, at 1-2; Brief for Appellant at 5. Following Appellant's non-payment under the terms of the rental agreements, Appellee sought a confessed judgment against Appellant in the amount of $76, 735.53 for unpaid rent and service charges. The trial court has aptly summarized the remaining procedural history of this case as follows:

On January 20, 2012, [Appellee] filed a Complaint in Confession of Judgment against [Appellant], which was authorized by warrants of attorney included in the terms and conditions of two rental contracts executed by the parties on March 17, 2011[, ] and May 16, 2011, respectively. Judgment was entered by the Dauphin County Prothonotary on the same day. On March 2, 2012, Appellant filed a "Petition to Strike and/or Open Confessed Judgment" to which [] Appellee responded on April 2, 2012. At Appellant's request, the [c]ourt heard oral argument on July 31, 2012 and, on August 3, 2012, [the trial court] denied the Petition.

Trial Court Opinion ("T.C.O."), 11/16/2012, at 1. This timely appeal followed. On September 7, 2012, the trial court directed Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b). On September 28, 2012, Appellant timely complied. On November 16, 2012, the trial court issued its Rule 1925(a) opinion.

Appellant raises the following issues for our consideration:
1. Did the court below err as a matter of law, or commit a manifest abuse of discretion, in refusing to open the judgment by confession entered against [Appellant], personally notwithstanding [Appellant's] execution of two (2) Rental Contracts at issue in his capacity as the sole Manager of Global Demolition & Recylcing, LLC, a duly formed Delaware limited liability corporation, and not in his individual capacity as evident on the face of the Rental Contracts themselves?
2. Did the court below err in refusing to take judicial notice of a contemporaneous Complaint for Confession of Judgment filed by [Appellee] against Global Demolition & Recycling, LLC[, ] where Appellee admitted to the filing of that action in its Answer filed in this proceeding?

Brief for Appellant at 3. We address each of Appellant's issues in turn.

Appellant first challenges the trial court's refusal to open the confessed judgment. While the object of Appellant's first issue is self-evident, his alleged grounds for relief are less clear from his brief. The most direct statement of Appellant's first claim is his assertion that he contests the trial court's refusal to open the confessed judgment on the basis of "substantive Pennsylvania law regarding when an officer of a corporation can properly be held personally liable upon a contract signed by him or her."[1] Brief for Appellant at 15. In clearer terms, Appellant claims that he signed the two contracts at issue in his representative capacity with regard to the company listed on the contract (Global Demolition). Hence, he claims, the trial court erred in holding him personally liable.

Although a petition to open a confessed judgment and a petition to strike a confessed judgment are properly brought in the same petition, see Pa.R.C.P. 2959, the two are distinct forms of relief, seeking different remedies and governed by different legal standards. Resolution Trust Corp. v. Copley Qu-Wayne Assoc, 683 A.2d 269, 273 (Pa. 1996). A petition to strike a confessed judgment is a common law proceeding which operates as a demurrer to the record, id. (citing Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Tri State Industries, Inc., 434 A.2d 1236, 1240-41 (Pa.Super. 1981)), and which will only be granted if a fatal defect or irregularity appears on the face of the record. Id. (citing Franklin Interiors v. Wall of Fame Management Co., Inc., 511 A.2d 761, 762 (Pa. 1986)). "However, if the truth of the factual averments contained in such record are disputed, then the remedy is by a proceeding to open the judgment and not to strike." Id. (citing Northway Village No. 3, Inc. v. Northway Properties, Inc., 244 A.2d 47, 49 (Pa. 1968); Manor Bldg. Corp. v. Manor Complex Associates, Ltd., 645 A.2d 843, 846 (Pa.Super. 1994)). Appellant's petition challenges the factual bases of the trial court's opinion, it is referred to specifically as ...

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