Argued, October 29, 2014
Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Dauphin County, Civil Division, No: 2010-CV-154254-CV. Before COATES J.
John G. Milakovic, Harrisburg, for appellants.
Peter E. Meltzer, Philadelphia, for appellee.
BEFORE: BOWES, OTT, and STABILE, JJ.
In 2011, the trial court in this case granted reconsideration of a final order even though more than 30 days had passed since the order's entry. That final order
sustained the preliminary objections of Appellants, Greenville Gastroenterology, SC, Peter S. Kim, and Angela R. Kim, and dismissed this case for lack of personal jurisdiction. A court lacks authority to grant reconsideration of a final order more than 30 days after its entry. Therefore, the trial court's granting of reconsideration and all subsequent proceedings in this case are void, including the entry of judgment in favor of Appellee, Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co. (M& T Bank), after a non-jury trial. We vacate and remand for entry of judgment in Appellants' favor.
This case is a dispute over the lease of a laser hair-removal machine to Appellants. The Kims are Illinois residents, and Greenville Gastroenterology is an Illinois business. In 2007, Appellants agreed to lease the machine from De Lage Landen Financial Services (M& T Bank's predecessor in interest). M& T Bank sued Appellants, alleging they defaulted on the lease.
Appellants filed preliminary objections for lack of personal jurisdiction. As Illinois residents, they claimed they lacked specific or general contacts with Pennsylvania. Also, they argued that any consent-to-jurisdiction clause in the lease (the copy attached to the complaint was illegible) was unenforceable. M& T Bank filed an amended complaint with a legible lease copy, and Appellants renewed their preliminary objections. After receiving briefs and hearing argument, the trial court sustained Appellants' preliminary objections and dismissed this suit for lack of personal jurisdiction on May 23, 2011.
Twenty-nine days later, M& T Bank simultaneously filed a motion to reconsider and a notice of appeal. On July 7, 2011, the trial court issued a statement instead of a Rule 1925(a) opinion:
This court, after re-examining the record, believes that Reconsideration is appropriate. However, because this [c]ourt did not receive the Motion for Reconsideration until after the thirty days allotted by 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505 expired, we were unable to grant said Motion. This court requests that the Superior Court grant it the opportunity to reconsider the decision.
Trial Court Statement, 7/7/11. On July 27, 2011, M& T Bank discontinued its appeal in this Court. On August 16, 2011--85 days after it dismissed this action--the trial court granted M& T Bank's motion to reconsider, vacated the May 23, 2011 order, and overruled Appellants' preliminary objections.
Appellants moved to vacate the August 16, 2011 order as void ab initio. The trial court denied the motion, compelling Appellants to file an answer with new matter, in which they again challenged the trial court's authority to reconsider the May 23, 2011 order. Afterwards, the case proceeded to a non-jury trial. The trial court entered a $191,098.22 decision in M& T Bank's favor. On ...