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[U] Remmert v. EDA Contractors, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 24, 2014

GERALD REMMERT AND KATHY REMMERT Appellees
v.
EDA CONTRACTORS, INC., AND WILLIAM J. DIAZ Appellants

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered February 23, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): 4226 February Term, 2011

BEFORE: BENDER, P. J., LAZARUS, J., and FITZGERALD, J.[*]

MEMORANDUM

LAZARUS, J.

The appellants, EDA Contractors, Inc. and William J. Diaz (hereafter referred to as "EDA"), appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County granting Gerald Remmert's[1] motion for post-trial relief in the form of a new trial. After careful review, we vacate the Rule 227.4 judgment, [2] and we affirm the trial court's grant of a new trial.

This appeal stems from a motor vehicle accident that occurred at the "T-shaped" intersection of Memphis Street and East Somerset Street in Philadelphia. At trial, Remmert testified that at the time of the incident, he was traveling along East Somerset Street and observed a large, parked truck obstructing his view of oncoming traffic from Memphis Street. Because Remmert had the right-of-way, he did not stop or slow down his speed as he proceeded straight along East Somerset Street. The driver for EDA testified that he drove along Memphis Street and as he approached the intersection of Memphis Street and East Somerset Street, stopped at the stop sign, observed the same truck parked at the corner obstructing his view of the oncoming traffic from East Somerset Street, and "inched" out into the intersection. The driver struck Remmert's vehicle after making a left turn onto East Somerset Street. The jury found Remmert fifty-one percent liable for the motor vehicle accident and injuries he sustained and EDA liable for the remaining forty-nine percent, effectively barring Remmert from any recovery.

On August 13, 2012, Remmert filed a timely post-trial motion requesting one of the following forms of relief: judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, or a new trial on the issue of damages only. See Pa.R.C.P. 227.1. Following oral arguments on October 9, 2012, trial counsel and the court agreed that review of the trial transcript was essential to resolving the outstanding post-trial motion. Due to consistent communications between the court and trial counsel regarding a delay in receipt of the trial transcript, the trial court anticipated that counsel would await the court's ruling before moving forward. However, on January 9, 2013, EDA moved to enter judgment pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 227.4(1)(b). Although entry of judgment was timely, it was done without notice to the court, and in direct contravention of the aforementioned agreement. Thereafter, on February 23, 2013, the trial court granted Remmert's request for relief in the form of a new trial. The order of February 23, 2013 was in turn subject to challenge by EDA, and it now forms the basis of the instant appeal.

On appeal, EDA presents the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court erred in entering an Order purporting to grant a new trial 45 days after judgment was entered pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 227.4(1)(b) because: (a) plaintiffs did not take an appeal from the entry of judgment within 30 days and, as such, all appellate rights were waived and the cases concluded; (b) the trial court had no authority to enter an order granting a new trial after final judgment was entered pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 227.4(1)(b)?
2. Whether the trial court erred in entering an order granting a new trial because (a) final judgment had been entered pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 227.4(1)(b), thus the court had no authority to enter such an order and (b) there is no basis to grant a new trial as there was both conflicting evidence and substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict?

Brief of Appellant, at 5.

Both of EDA's questions raise issues that when resolved may substantially curtail the need for further appellate review. Accordingly, we shall first dispose of the question concerning the operation of Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 227.4.

EDA contends that the court's order of February 23, 2013 granting a new trial in favor of Remmert is a legal nullity because the court entered it beyond the time specified in the Rule, and after judgment was entered on January 8, 2013 pursuant to the Rule. This issue poses a question of law, of which our review is plenary. Pentarek v. ...


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