Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Petition to Open Default Judgment Denied

In the case of Turner Constr. Co. v. Associated Indus. Ins. Co., March Term 2018, No. 01727 (C.P. Phila. Co. Jan. 31, 2019 Padilla, J.), the court denied a Defendant’s Petition to Open a Default Judgment.   This matter arose out of a dispute between a Plaintiff, who was a general contractor, and the Defendant insurance company.   The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendant was obligated to provide the Plaintiff with a defense in an underlying case but had refused to do so.  

The court noted that the Defendant did not file a Petition to Open a Default Judgment until 85 days after the judgment had been entered.  As such, the rule requiring the court to enter a default judgment if the Petition to Open or Strike was filed within ten (10) days of the default was found not to apply.  

As such, under the case of Schultz v. Erie Ins. Exch., 477 A.2d 471 (Pa. 1984), in order to open a default judgment, the Defendant was required to demonstrate that (1) the petition was timely filed, (2) a reasonable explanation or legitimate use for the inactivity or delay was provided, and (3) the existence of a meritorious defense.  

In this matter, in an attempt to explain its failure to file a responsive pleading to the Complaint, the Defendant asserted that it was not properly served.   The court rejected this explanation as the record showed that the Defendant had indeed been properly served.  

As such, the court found that the Defendant failed to meet the standard set forth in the Schultz case for the opening of a judgment.  Accordingly, the Petition to Open the Judgment was denied.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 5, 2019)

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