Monday, February 26, 2018

Superior Court Finds Trial Court Abused Discretion in Not Granting Continuance To Allow Party To Secure New Expert

In the case of Rutyna v. Schweers, No. 895 WDA 2016 (Pa. Super. Jan. 4, 2018 en banc) (Op. by Lazaurs, J.) (Olson, J., concurring), the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the entry of summary judgment and ruled that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Plaintiff a continuance where, through no fault of the Plaintiffs, the Plaintiff’s expert was suddenly unable to testify less than three (3) weeks before trial. 

This case involved a legal malpractice action related to an underlying medical malpractice action.

In reviewing the issue presented, the Superior Court referenced Pa.R.C.P. 216 for allowable grounds for a continuance and also reviewed the factors typically considered with such requests, including whether there was prejudice to the opposing party by the delay, whether the opposing party was willing to continue the case, and the complexities involved in presenting the case.  Op. at p. 10-11 and fn. 12

The court ultimately found that, given the history of the case, the Plaintiffs were left with insufficient time to obtain a new expert.  

In its Opinion, the Superior Court emphasized that, while the swift resolution of cases is a "linchpin of judicial economy," is not an end in and of itself. Op. p. 18.

The Rutyna decision can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia law office of Reed Smith for bringing this case to my attention.   

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