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Stephan v. Waldron Elec. Heating & Cooling LLC

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 19, 2014

THORSTEN STEPHAN, Appellee
v.
WALDRON ELECTRIC HEATING AND COOLING LLC, Appellant

Argued August 14, 2014

Page 661

Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Civil Division, No. AR-12-003147. Before LUTTY, J.

Gregory A. Castelli, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Thorsten Stephan, appellee, pro se.

BEFORE: DONOHUE, ALLEN, and MUSMANNO, JJ. OPINION bye ALLEN, J. Judge Donohue joins the Opinion. Judge Musmanno filed a Dissenting Opinion. Joseph D. Seletyn, Esq., Prothonotary.

OPINION

Page 662

ALLEN, J.:

Waldron Electric Heating and Cooling LLC, (" Appellant" ), appeals from the trial court's orders denying Appellant's preliminary objections, motion for judgment on the pleadings, motion for summary judgment, and motion for post-trial relief.[1] After careful consideration, we reverse the trial court and vacate the judgment in favor of Thorsten Stephan (" Stephan" ).

Our review of the record reveals the following: On April 3, 2012, Stephan initiated an action against Appellant in the Allegheny County Magisterial District Court at docket number MJ-05235-CV-0000064-2012. On May 10, 2012, following a hearing, the magisterial district judge entered judgment in favor of Stephan in the amount of $1,319.00, plus filing fees of $94.00, for a total judgment of $1,413.00.

On May 18, 2012, Appellant appealed the judgment to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. On May 21, 2012, Stephan, appearing pro se, filed a short form complaint alleging " extreme overcharging by [Appellant] for a minor home repair." Stephan's Complaint, 5/21/12, at 1. On May 30, 2012, Appellant filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer. On June 19, 2012, Stephan filed a response to Appellant's preliminary objections.

In response to Appellant's preliminary objections, Stephan conceded that he " called [Appellant] that morning via The Yellow Pages for repair of sudden non-functioning of one of my electric outlets." See [R]e: Plead[ing] of [Stephan] v. [Appellant] in front of [the trial court] on June 22, 2012, 6/19/12, at 1 (unnumbered). Stephan expressed that Appellant's electrician " [b]efore he ever looked at the outlet ... presented a company contract form detailing the price for the week-end trip and general information on possible diagnostic and repair work if needed. I was asked to

Page 663

read, sign and initial the paper at various places which I did." Id.

Stephan explained:

When [Appellant's electrician] finally checked the non-functioning electric outlet, he did not find any defect there. He asked me: Do you still want me to repair the problem? I said: Of course. His answer: That will cost you at least an extra $1,000 [dollars]. I was shocked. I asked: Do you expect such an extensive work up and repair? Do you mean to say that you may need to open some walls and replace some electric lines? He shrugged his shoulders. Finally I agreed. Do what you have to do. He was here and I owed him $300 [dollars] already for his visit even letting him go without work. []
After I had agreed verbally with further work, it did not take him more than a total of fifteen minutes to find and fix the problem. First he looked around the apartment for a few minutes without touching any fuses or other outlets. Then he went into the adjacent bedroom and opened 2 electric outlets, one after the other. The second unit showed a loose and burnt connection explaining the non-functioning of the electric outlet in the other room.

Id. After the loose and burnt connection was repaired, the electrician " completed the bill," which " added up to $1,469 [dollars] including t[he] $402 [dollars] for diagnosis and $721 [dollars] for repair." Id. at 2. Stephan asserted that " [t]he following Monday, I consulted a certified electrician referred by the manager of our condominium association. He reviewed the work and agreed with what was done[.]" Id.

On June 22, 2012, the trial court overruled Appellant's preliminary objections. On September 13, 2012, Appellant filed an answer and new matter. On September 14, 2012, an arbitration hearing convened, at the conclusion of which the arbitration panel found in favor of Stephan and awarded him $900.00. On September 18, 2012, Appellant appealed the arbitration award.

Appellant deposed Stephan on March 4, 2013. During his deposition, Stephan admitted that Appellant's electrician " had given [Stephan] some sort of price before he did the work[.]" N.T., Stephan's Deposition, 3/4/13, at 14. Stephan testified that Appellant's electrician " seemed like a pretty bright guy" and was " very competent." Id. at 31. Stephan denied that the electrician " was intimidating or threatening in any way to [Stephan]." Id. Appellant's electrical system has continued to function properly since the repair. Id. at 30. Stephan acknowledged signing a " final sign-off sheet" from Appellant's electrician, and that " where [Stephan's] name is written in it says, Satisfaction of work performed, work fully completed and prices acknowledged in advance and approved by buyer in writing[.]" Id. at 41-42. Stephan testified that he signed because " I knew already that I would cancel [the contract]." Id. at 42.

On June 13, 2013, Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was scheduled for argument on August 26, 2013. On September 4, 2013, the trial court entered an order denying Appellant's motion for summary judgment. On September 12, 2013, the trial court conducted a non-jury trial. On September 13, 2013, the trial court issued a verdict in favor of Stephan, and against Appellant, in the amount of $1,000.00. On September 23, 2013, Appellant filed a motion for post-trial relief. On September 24, 2013, the trial court denied Appellant's motion for post-trial relief.

On October 1, 2013, Appellant filed a notice of appeal. On November 21, 2013, our Court quashed sua sponte, without

Page 664

prejudice, Appellant's appeal by per curiam order because final judgment had not been entered. In the interim, on October 10, 2013, the trial court ordered Appellant to file a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal. On November 1, 2013, Appellant filed its Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement. On November 19, 2013, the trial court filed a memorandum in lieu of a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion. On December 10, 2013, judgment was entered in favor of Stephan. That same day, Appellant filed this appeal.

Appellant presents the following issues for our review:

1. Did the Trial Court err in failing to grant the Appellant's Preliminary Objections in the Nature of a Demurrer where [Stephan] failed to plead any material fact that could give rise to any legitimate cause of action upon which the Appellant could effectively base his legal defense?
2. Did the Trial Court further err in denying the Appellant's Motion for Summary Judgment when, even taken in a light most favorable to [Stephan], the complained of factual basis and record as a whole, contain no legitimate cause of action, and, most strikingly, when [Stephan] undisputedly ...

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