SLT HOLDINGS, LLC, JACK E. MCLAUGHLIN AND ZUREYA A. MCLAUGHLIN, Appellees
MITCH-WELL ENERGY, INC. AND WILLIAM E. MITCHELL, JR., AN INDIVIDUAL, Appellants
from the Order Dated August 8, 2018 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Warren County Civil Division at No(s): A.D. 626 of
BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., DUBOW, J., and FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.
Energy, Inc. ("Mitch-Well") and William E.
Mitchell, Jr., an individual ("Mr. Mitchell")
(collectively "Appellants") appeal from the August
8, 2018 order, which granted the petition for attorneys'
fees and costs filed by SLT Holdings, LLC ("SLT"),
Jack E. McLaughlin and Zureya A. McLaughlin ("the
McLaughlins") (collectively "Appellees"), and
awarded Appellees reasonable attorneys' fees and costs in
the amount of $8, 383.40.,  We affirm.
matter stems from a dispute over two oil, gas, and mineral
("OGM") leases regarding two parcels located in
Warren County. The underlying action was commenced on
November 19, 2013, with Appellees' filing of a complaint
in equity against Appellants. Summary judgment was granted in
favor of Appellees on January 8, 2018. Pending the decision
on its motion for summary judgment, Appellees filed a motion
for sanctions against Appellants, seeking recovery under
Pa.R.C.P. 4019(d) for fees and costs incurred as a result of
Appellants' failure to respond truthfully to
Appellees' request for admissions. On November 29, 2017,
the trial court heard argument on both the summary judgment
motion and the motion for sanctions. The court deferred
ruling on the motion for sanctions until after the issuance
of its opinion regarding summary judgment. Summary judgment
was entered in favor of Appellees on January 9, 2018.
By order of January 10, 2018, the court granted
[Appellees'] motion for sanctions and gave them twenty
days to file their petition for attorneys' fees and
costs. The motion for sanctions concerned a request for
admissions that [Appellees] had served on [Appellants].
[Appellants] denied every request for an admission. The most
important facts that [Appellants] denied were that they made
no payments to [Appellees] for approximately 13 years. The
leases … required minimum payments even if no oil or
gas was produced. [Appellees] hoped that if [Appellants]
admitted to not making payments, then [Appellees] could prove
that they breached the lease agreements, and [Appellees]
could move for summary judgment without ever having deposed
[Mr. Mitchell]. [Appellees] represented that because
[Appellants] denied all of the requests for admissions,
[Appellees] had to take the deposition of [Mr. Mitchell].
During the deposition, [Mr. Mitchell] conceded the facts that
[Appellees] had previously asked [Appellants] to admit. He
also conceded that [Appellants] were in error when they
denied the relevant requests for admissions. It was
[Appellees'] position that [Appellants'] wrongful
denial of the requests for admissions forced [Appellees] to
incur the costs of the deposition, the motion for
sanctions, and the petition for attorneys' fees and
costs. Counsel for [Appellees] represented that he worked
27.7 hours on relevant tasks at the agreed-upon rate of $300
per hour. The total is $8, 383.40. Of that amount, $73.40 is
costs and the rest is attorney[s'] fees. Counsel
included a table with individual line items in
[Appellees'] petition. Attached to the petition are
heavily redacted invoices and an affidavit signed by counsel.
[Appellants] filed a response to the petition with several
arguments, including one which duplicates matters raised in
the instant appeal. [Appellants] claimed that the Rule of
Civil Procedure governing sanctions for denials of requests
for admission that are subsequently proven true only allows
sanctions after a trial or hearing. Pa.R.C.P.
Trial Court Opinion ("TCO"), 11/5/18, at 2-3
(unnecessary capitalization omitted).
argument on Appellees' petition for attorneys' fees
and costs, the trial court issued an order on August 8, 2018,
granting the petition and awarding Appellees reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $8, 383.40. On
August 27, 2018, Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal,
followed by a timely, court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise
statement of errors complained of on appeal. Herein,
Appellants present the following issues for our review:
1. Did the [t]rial [c]ourt abuse its discretion in awarding
counsel fees as a sanction for [Appellants'] denial of
requests for admissions where SLT was granted summary
judgment without trial?
2. Did the [t]rial [c]ourt abuse its discretion when it
awarded counsel fees as a sanction for the denial of requests
for admissions as SLT was never required to prove the truth
of the facts denied because of the entry of summary judgment
in favor of SLT Holdings?
3. Did the [t]rial [c]ourt err in failing to hold an
evidentiary hearing for sanctions and attorney[s'] fees
where the non[-]moving party had filed a response to the
petition for attorney[s'] fees and costs?
Appellants' Brief at 4.
is well-settled that the specific sanctions imposed under
Pa.R.C.P. 4019 for violation of discovery rules are left to
the sole discretion of the trial court."
Christian, 686 A.2d at 5 (citing Sun Pipe Line
Co. v. Tri-State Telecommunications, Inc., 655 A.2d 112,
122 (Pa. Super. 1995)). Therefore, we apply an abuse of
discretion standard when reviewing an order granting or
denying a motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 4019(d).
See id. "An abuse of discretion is not merely
an error of judgment. It requires a showing of manifest
unreasonableness, partiality, ill-will, or such lack of
support as to be clearly ...