Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lamp v. Heyman Standard Utilized in Beaver County Service of Process Case

In the recent Beaver County case of Clark v. Murphy, No. 12166 of 2006 (C.P. Beaver Co. Jan. 23, 2012 Kunselman, J.), Judge Debra A. Kunselman granted a Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment based upon the fact that the Defendants were not served with a Complaint or a Writ of Summons in the two-year statute of limitations in a motor vehicle accident case.

According to the Opinion, the subject motor vehicle accident occurred on November 4, 2004. The Plaintiff filed a Writ of Summons nearly two years later on October 23, 2006. The Defendant, Debra Murphy, was not served with original process until October 30, 2007, i.e. about a year after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The other Defendant, Elizabeth Murphy, was not served until November 7, 2007, which was also long after the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Applying the standard set forth in Lamp v. Heyman, 366 A.2d 882 (Pa. 1976), the Court found that the Plaintiff did not make a good faith effort to effect service of process in a timely manner prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The Court noted the exception to this rule exists when a Defendant has actual notice of the lawsuit. In such situations, once a Plaintiff has proven actual notice, the Defendant must show prejudice before the case will be dismissed. McCreesh v. City of Philadelphia, 888 A.2d 664 (Pa. 2006).

The Court in this matter found that the exception did not apply as there was no evidence that the Defendants had actual notice of the lawsuit. The Clark court also went on to rule that the Plaintiff had not sustained his burden of proving a good faith effort to complete service. In its Opinion, the court outlined the efforts made by the Plaintiff. As such, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on the lack of timely service of original process issue.

I thank Attorney Kassie Segmiller of the Pittsburgh law firm of Segmiller & Mendicino for advising me of this decision. Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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