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Motley Crew,LLC v. Bonner Chevrolet Co., Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 13, 2014

MOTLEY CREW, LLC, A LAW FIRM, JOSEPH R. REISINGER ESQUIRE, LLC, AND JOSEPH R. REISINGER, Appellants
v.
BONNER CHEVROLET CO., INC., PAUL R. MANCIA, D.D.S., RICHARD F. CROSSIN, GENERAL MOTORS COMPANY, THOMAS N. CROSSIN AND JAMES MILLER, Appellees

Appeal from the Order of February 20, 2012. In the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Civil Division at No: 8272 of 2012. Before BROWN, J.

Joseph R. Reisinger, Larksville, for appellants.

John J. Gill, Jr., Kingston, for Bonner Chevrolet and Crossin, appellees.

BEFORE: GANTMAN, P.J., DONOHUE, and STABILE, JJ. OPINION BY STABILE, J.

OPINION

STABILE, J.:

Appellants/plaintiffs Motley Crew, LLC, A Law Firm, Joseph R. Reisinger Esquire, LLC, and Joseph R. Reisinger (Appellants)

Page 475

appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (trial court), which granted Appellees/defendants Richard F. Crossin, Thomas N. Crossin, and Bonner Chevrolet's (Appellees) petition to open default judgment.[1] For the reasons set forth below, we quash this appeal.

On May 2, 2012, Appellants filed a complaint against Appellees in the trial court, raising causes of action for, inter alia, fraud and conspiracy.[2] Following Appellants' issuance of a notice to Appellees pursuant to Pa.R.C.P.No. 237.1(a)(2), on June 19, 2012, Appellants filed a praecipe for entry of default judgment in the amount of $800,670.00. On June 22, 2012, Appellees petitioned the trial court to open the default judgment under Pa.R.C.P.No. 237.3, attaching thereto a proposed answer and new matter in response to Appellants' complaint. On February 20, 2013, the trial court granted Appellees' petition to open default judgment, concluding that it was timely and set forth a meritorious defense. On March 18, 2013, Appellants appealed to this Court. On the same day, Appellants also filed a praecipe to discontinue their case with prejudice as to all defendants under Pa.R.C.P.No. 229.[3]

On appeal, Appellants essentially argue that the trial court erred in granting Appellees' petition to open judgment because Appellees' proposed answer failed to state a meritorious defense.

Because of the manner by which Appellants have come to this Court, we first need to address whether we have jurisdiction to entertain this appeal. The undisputed facts of this case demonstrate that Appellants discontinued with prejudice their underlying action--in which the trial court had issued an interlocutory order--against all defendants (including Appellees).[4] In response to an order from this Court to show cause why this appeal

Page 476

should not be quashed, Appellants indicated they filed a discontinuance praecipe to terminate all claims against all parties so as to render " final" the trial court's February 20, 2013 order. By doing so, Appellants contend that their action produced a " final" appealable order, as required under Pa.R.A.P. 341(b), which defines a final order, in part, as any order that " disposes of all claims and of all parties." Appellants believe that they can render final for purposes of appeal an otherwise interlocutory order--in this case, the trial court's order granting Appellees' petition to open default judgment--by simply discontinuing their underlying action. We disagree.

The general effect of a discontinuance is to terminate the action without an adjudication of the merits and to place the plaintiff in the same position as if the action had never been instituted. See 1 Goodrich-Amram 2d § 229:4; see also Williams Studio Div. of Photography by Tallas, Inc. v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 380 Pa.Super. 1, 550 A.2d 1333, 1335 (Pa. 1988) (noting in case of a voluntary nonsuit, dismissal without prejudice operates to leave the parties as if no action had been brought at all). Hence, when an action is discontinued, there no longer is an action pending before the trial court. It is self-evident that if there is no action pending before a court, there is no matter over which a court can or may exert jurisdiction. The fact that a discontinuance operates to nullify an action as if it was never initiated is further supported by Pa.R.C.P.No. 231(a), which provides " [a]fter a discontinuance . . . the plaintiff may commence a second action upon the same cause of action . . . ." Rule 231(a) ...


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