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Golab v. Knuth

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 12, 2017

DOROTHY A. GOLAB, Appellant
v.
STACY M. KNUTH

         Appeal from the Order entered March 28, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Civil Division, No(s): 11708-2007

          BEFORE: MOULTON, SOLANO and MUSMANNO, JJ.

          OPINION

          MUSMANNO, J.

         Dorothy A. Golab ("Golab") appeals from the Order granting the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the defendant in the underlying personal injury action, Stacy M. Knuth ("Knuth"), and reinstating the trial court's prior Order terminating Golab's action for inactivity. We affirm.

         In May 2005, Golab and Knuth were involved in an automobile accident, which injured Golab. Golab filed a civil Complaint against Knuth on July 20, 2007. Knuth filed an Answer and New Matter on August 2, 2007. The parties thereafter engaged in discovery. On February 23, 2009, the trial court entered a case management Order, directing that discovery shall be completed by May 2009, and identifying October 2009 as the recommended trial term for the case. The parties thereafter submitted pretrial narrative statements, pursuant to the case management Order. However, the case was never certified for trial, and never proceeded to trial.

         Several years later, following no activity on the case, the trial court published a Termination Notice on October 16, 2015 (hereinafter "the Termination Notice"), in the Erie County Legal Journal.[1] The Termination Notice stated that the instant case (along with a list of myriad others) could be terminated, due to lack of docket activity, unless interested parties appeared at a hearing on November 30, 2015 ("termination hearing"), and showed good cause why their respective cases should not be terminated.[2]The Termination Notice provided that it was being issued pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. 1901 (governing termination of inactive cases), which states, in relevant part, as follows:

(a) General policy.

It is the policy of the unified judicial system to bring each pending matter to a final conclusion as promptly as possible consistently with the character of the matter and the resources of the system. Where a matter has been inactive for an unreasonable period of time, the tribunal, on its own motion, shall enter an appropriate order terminating the matter.

(b) Primary responsibility for implementation of policy.
(1) Except as provided by paragraph (3), each court of common pleas is primarily responsible for the implementation of the policy expressed in subdivision (a) of this rule and is directed to make local rules of court for such purposes applicable to the court and to the community court or magisterial district judges of the peace of the judicial district.
* * *
(c) Minimum standards.

Before any order terminating a matter on the ground of unreasonable inactivity is entered, the parties shall be given at least 30 days' written notice of opportunity for hearing on such proposed termination, which notice shall be given:

(1) In person or by mail to the last address of record of the parties or their counsel of record and setting forth a brief identification of the matter to be terminated; or
(2) By publication in the manner provided by rule of court in the legal newspaper designated by rule of court for the publication of legal notices in any case where notice by mail cannot be given or has been returned undelivered or where the docket of the matter shows no evidence of activity during the previous two years. Any matter terminated after notice by publication pursuant to this paragraph may be reinstated by the court after dismissal upon written application for good cause shown.

Pa.R.J.A. 1901 (emphasis added). Importantly to the instant appeal, at the time that the trial court terminated Golab's case, there was no Erie Local Rule in effect, pursuant to Rule 1901(b)(1), to implement the policy of Rule 1901.[3]

         At the termination hearing, none of the parties in the instant case, nor their counsel, appeared. Accordingly, on December 3, 2015, the trial court entered an Order ("the Termination Order") terminating all of the cases ...


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