Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Is Still Possible to Have a Case Dismissed for Inactivity (Judgment Non Pros)

In the 11 year old case of Pagnotti v. Louis Pagnotti, Inc., 2000 - CV - 566 (Lacka. Co. June 1, 2011 Minora, J.), Judge Carmen D. Minora of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas applied the factors set forth in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Jacobs v. Halloran, 710 A.2d 1098 (Pa. 1998), to grant a defendant's motion for entry of a judgment of non pros due to inactivity in the claim.

This 11-year-old case was filed in February 2000.  According Judge Minora's Opinion, after some docket activity through August of 2001, there was a three year gap in docket activity through June of 2004. 

A second period of docket activity lasted only three months.  Thereafter, from August 2004 through December 2009, there was no activity in the case.

Later, in March of 2010, the court permitted counsel for plaintiff to withdraw based on plaintiff's lack of payment for legal bills.

In April 2010, defendants filed this motion to dismiss for inactivity and for entry of judgment of non pros. An attorney entered his appearance for plaintiff and filed objections to the request for a dismissal.

The defendants asserted that the plaintiff had failed to diligently prosecute this case, which resulted in prejudice. The defendants argued that for over seven years of the life of the file, there had been no activity of any kind.  It was additionally asserted that the Complaint was based upon events that had occurred between 14 and 21 years ago.

The plaintiff's new attorney argued that any docket inactivity was caused by prior counsel and also made an unsupported allegation that defendants were not prejudiced by the delay.

In May 2010, the court allowed limited discovery on the non pros issue. The court then determined that this "ancient case" had been delayed yet another year and was overly ripe for disposition.

Judge Minora noted that the case of Jacobs v. Halloran , 710 A.2d 1098 (Pa. 1998), established three elements that must be met for a judgment of non pros to be properly entered to terminate an inactive case. First, plaintiff failed to proceed with reasonable diligence.  Second, there was no compelling reason for the delay. Third, plaintiff's delay caused actual prejudice to defendants.

Finding that the defendants met the elements of this test, the court granted defendants' motion for entry of judgment non pros due to inactivity.

Source: Case Digests in June 14, 2011 Pennsylvania Law Weekly


Anyone desiring a copy of this case may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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