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Lechowicz v. Moser

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 31, 2017

ROBERT LECHOWICZ
v.
EDWARD MOSER Appellant

         Appeal from the Order Entered May 24, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County Civil Division at No(s): 2007-01129

          BEFORE: MOULTON, J., RANSOM, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]

          OPINION

          RANSOM, J.

         Appellant, Edward Moser, appeals from the order entered May 24, 2016, denying his petition to open and/or strike a confession of judgment entered against Appellant in favor of Appellee, Robert Lechowicz, pursuant to a judgment note arising out of legal services rendered to Appellant. We affirm.

         The relevant facts and procedural history are as follows. Moser retained Lechowicz to represent him in a variety of business litigation matters, including: Knox v. Moser, Mont. Cty. CCP No. 1998-01833; The Moser Group v. Staufer; Bucks Cty. CCP No. 1997-08307; The Moser Group v. David Cavalier; Mont. Cty. CCP No. 1997-21186; Moser Construction Company v. OCAL, Mont. Cty. CCP No. 1997-21179; and the "Lynn Rose Plaza Matter." See Petition to Open and/or Strike Judgment, 9/12/2014, at ¶ 12 (hereinafter "Petition"). In addition, Moser engaged Lechowicz as defense counsel against allegations brought by Timoney Knox LLP to collect legal fees for services rendered by Attorney John Knox during Moser's divorce (hereinafter "the Knox litigation"). See id. at ¶¶ 13-15. In February 2004, Moser executed a judgment note confessing $55, 000.00 in favor of Lechowicz and an affidavit waiving any rights or defenses. See Affidavit Accompanying Judgment Note, 2/9/2004.

         In February 2007, Lechowicz filed a complaint for confession of judgment in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The court promptly entered judgment for $55, 000.00 against Moser. In November 2013, Lechowicz filed a writ to revive the judgment. The court entered a judgment on the docket in the revived amount of $89, 257.16. Thereafter, in September 2014, Moser filed a petition to open and/or strike the judgment that was accompanied by a memorandum of law. Following additional briefing and oral argument, the court denied and dismissed Moser's petition to open and/or strike. See Order, 5/24/2016. Moser timely filed a notice of appeal and court-ordered 1925(b) statement. The court issued a responsive opinion.

         On appeal, Moser raises the following issues:

1. Did the [court] err when it held that the issue of time was dispositive regarding the [p]etition to [o]pen/[s]trike [j]udgment?
2. Did the [court] err when considering the consumer nature of the transaction when it held that [Appellant] failed to [show a defect on the face of the record or] a bona fide defense on the merits, namely that the use of judgment by confession was per se illegal?
3. Did the [court] err when it failed to open judgment to allow [Appellant] to contest the reasonableness and amount of claimed legal fees as it is a matter of law that the issues of reasonableness and amount of legal fees is always open to review[?]

Appellant's Br. at 7-8 (reordered for ease of analysis).[1]

         Moser appeals from the order denying his petition to open and/or strike a confession of judgment. Our standard of review is as follows.

We review a trial court's order denying a petition to strike a confessed judgment to determine whether the record is sufficient to sustain the judgment. First Union National Bank v. Portside Refrigerated Services, 827 A.2d 1224, 1227 (Pa. Super. 2003). A petition to strike a judgment may be granted only if a fatal defect or irregularity appears on the face of the record. [First Union Nat'l Bank, 827 A.2d at 1227]. Similarly, we review the order denying Appellant's petition to open the confessed judgment for an abuse of discretion. Id.; PNC Bank v. Kerr, 802 A.2d 634, 638 (Pa. Super. 2002) ("A petition to open judgment is an appeal to the ...

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