Thursday, November 21, 2019

Pennsylvania Superior Court Finds That Service Was Properly Completed Even Though Green Return Receipt Lost


In the case of Sawyers v. Davis, 2019 Pa. Super. 219 (Pa. Super. Oct. 22, 2019 Bowes, J., Olson, J., Stabile, J.) (Op. by Bowes, J.) (Olson, J, dissenting), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a trial court erred in dismissing the Plaintiff’s personal injury action against a defendant motorist for improper service.

This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident.

The appellate court found that the Plaintiff had offered sufficient evidence to show that he complied with the requirements of service of process under the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. The Superior Court noted that, given that the Plaintiff had met his burden of proof on the issue of service, the burden then shifted to the Defendant driver, who had failed to offer any evidence to refute the Plaintiff’s evidence that service complied with the Rules of Civil Procedure.

The central issue in the matter involved the Plaintiff properly serving an out of state Defendant by way of a certified letter, return receipt requested. According to the Opinion, the green return receipt card was lost by the United States Post Office. However, the Post Office supplied tracking documentation that showed delivery of the letter.  Also produced by the Post Office was a scanned signature of the person who accepted the letter.

There was also additional evidence presented that the Defendant driver, who was a cousin of the Plaintiff, otherwise had notice of the lawsuit.

The appellate court found that the trial court did not view the evidence in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff as the non-moving party when it dismissed the case. The appellate court also viewed the lack of a green return receipt card as a mere technical defect. The Superior Court additionally reiterated that there was evidence that the Defendant had notice of the action.  As such, the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit was reversed.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of the Majority decision in Sawyers may click this LINK.  The Dissenting Opinion may be viewed HERE.

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

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