US SPACES, INC. Appellant
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES, FOX & ROACH
from the Order Entered July 7, 2016 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s):
BEFORE: PANELLA, J., SHOGAN, J., and RANSOM, J.
206.1 - 207.7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure govern civil
petition practice in Pennsylvania. These rules provide that
petition practice will proceed through the issuance, to the
respondent, of a rule to show cause why the relief requested
should not be granted. See Pa.R.C.P. 206.4. As a
default, the decision to issue such a rule is discretionary
with the trial court. See id. However, the Courts of
Common Pleas are permitted to adopt a local rule that
modifies the default and instead provides for issuance of the
rule to show cause "as of course." Pa.R.C.P.
appeal, we are asked to determine whether a trial court can
decide to refuse to issue a rule to show cause where a local
rule provides for issuance "as of course." We
conclude that the adoption of such a local rule acts to
constrain the discretion of the trial court in all but the
most egregious cases. We therefore reverse and remand for
24, 2016, Appellant U.S. Spaces, Inc., filed a petition to
vacate an arbitration award in the Philadelphia Court of
Common Pleas. In its petition, U.S. Spaces asserted that a
dispute over its entitlement to realtor fees between itself
and Appellee, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Fox &
Roach, had been submitted to arbitration in accordance with
the professional association that both parties are affiliated
with. The arbitration panel was scheduled to hear the matter
on April 25, 2016. However, the panel declined to hold a
hearing due to the absence of U.S. Spaces's broker of
record, who was not scheduled to be a witness at the
in the petition's allegations is that the panel entered a
final decision against U.S. Spaces. U.S. Spaces appealed the
panel's decision to a procedural review tribunal pursuant
to the association's arbitration rules. That tribunal
affirmed the original panel's decision on June 10, 2016.
U.S. Spaces subsequently requested that the Court of Common
Pleas vacate the arbitration award under 42 Pa.C.S.A. 7341,
common law arbitration, on the basis that it was denied a
full and fair hearing of its claims.
Court of Common Pleas reviewed U.S. Spaces's petition and
did not issue a rule to show cause. Rather, it entered an
order denying the petition on July 7, 2016. U.S. Spaces then
filed this timely appeal.
noted previously, Pa.R.C.P. 206.4 provides the Courts of
Common Pleas two options in responding to the filing of a
petition. The default option, codified in Pa.R.C.P. 206.5,
provides the court discretion in whether to issue a rule to
show cause when presented with a petition. The alternative,
codified in Pa.R.C.P. 206.6, must be chosen by the adoption
of a local rule and provides for the issuance of a rule to
show cause "as of course."
The purpose of Rules 206.5 through 206.7 is to create a
record from which the court may determine disputed issues of
fact raised by the petition and answer. If the answer does
not raise disputed issues of fact, then the petition and
answer are ready for decision by the court without the
fact-finding process and new Rule 206.7(b) so states.
Pa.R.C.P. 206.4, Comment.
respondent does not file an answer to a rule to show cause,
"all averments of fact in the petition may be deemed
admitted[.]" Pa.R.C.P. 206.7(a). "The rule provides
some flexibility by giving the court discretion to consider
an answer not timely filed. If an answer is never filed,
there would be little basis upon which the court might
exercise its discretion and the averments of fact in the
petition would be deemed admitted." Pa.R.C.P. 206.7,
Comment. If the respondent files an answer that does
not raise issues of material fact, the petitioner may request
that the court decide the matter as a matter of law.
See Pa.R.C.P. 206.7(b).
respondent files an answer raising issues of material fact,
both parties are entitled to proceed with discovery as
permitted by the court. See Pa.R.C.P. 206.7(c), (d).
The burden, however, rests with the petitioner to establish
its right to relief. See Pa.R.C.P. 206.7(c).
scheme set forth by Rules 206.1 - 206.7 provides flexibility
for courts to handle petitions in a manner consistent with
the need for consistent docket management. In counties that
do not adopt a local rule, the default provides that the
court will act as a "gatekeeper, " reviewing
petitions for their merit. The level of proof that the rule
requires to be appended to such petitions is an issue not
currently before us. At the very least, however, it is clear
that, under ...