March 11, 2014
GARY MILLER Appellant
ARTHUR JOHN GORDON DECARLE Appellee
Appeal from the Order Entered July 15, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County Civil Division at No(s): 2013-2152
BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., ALLEN, J., and LAZARUS, J.
The order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County dismissing Gary Miller's complaint as frivolous pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 240(j)(1) is hereby AFFIRMED.
On July 1, 2013, Miller filed a civil complaint against Arthur John Gordon DeCarle, M.D., who had been appointed by the Court of Common Pleas of Perry County to prepare a psychiatric evaluation of Miller to determine his competency to stand trial for certain criminal charges. Miller, dissatisfied with Dr. DeCarle's opinion and testimony, sued Dr. DeCarle, alleging counts of fraud, gross negligence and "reckless" [sic].
By order dated July 15, 2013, the trial court dismissed his complaint as frivolous pursuant to Rule 240(j)(1), which provides as follows:
(j)(1) If, simultaneous with the commencement of an action or proceeding or the taking of an appeal, a party has filed a petition for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court prior to acting upon the petition may dismiss the action, proceeding or appeal if the allegation of poverty is untrue or if it is satisfied that the action, proceeding or appeal is frivolous.
Miller's complaint is barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity. This privilege, "which includes judges, lawyers, litigants and witnesses, had its origin in defamation actions premised upon statements made during legal actions, but it has now been extended to include all tort actions based on statements made during judicial proceedings." Panitz v. Behrend, 632 A.2d 562, 564 (Pa. Super. 1993). In Clodgo v. Bowman, 610 A.2d 342 (Pa. Super. 1992), a medical expert provided incorrect testimony in a paternity case by falsely excluding a putative father, who ultimately was determined to be the biological father. Mother sued the doctor for medical malpractice. On appeal, this Court barred Mother's suit, holding that "a witness in a judicial proceeding is absolutely protected against any civil action that is premised upon communications that are pertinent and relevant and made in the course of a judicial proceeding[.]" Id. at 344. Such judicial immunity "bars actions for tortious behavior . . ., so long as it was a communication pertinent to any stage of a judicial proceeding." Id. at 345, quoting Brown v. Delaware Valley Transplant Program, 539 A.2d 1372 (Pa. Super. 1988) (italics omitted). See also Post v. Mendel, 507 A.2d 351 (Pa. 1986); Greenberg v. Aetna Ins. Co., 235 A.2d 576 (Pa. 1967); Moses v. McWilliams, 549 A.2d 950 (Pa. Super. 1988) (superseded by statute on other grounds).
Based on the controlling case law, Miller's cause of action was frivolous and the trial court properly dismissed his complaint.