Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Judgment Non Pros Denied But Court Lights A Fire Under Them With A Discovery Deadlines Order

In the case of Fisher v. Correctional Care, Inc., No. 14-CV-4778 (C.P. Lacka. Co. April 20, 2020 Nealon, J.), the court denied a Defendant’s Petition for the Entry of a Judgment Non Pros for failure to pursue this civil litigation matter with reasonable promptitude.

The court noted that this matter arose out of a claim by a license practical nurse against a healthcare provider to the Lackawanna County Prison for allegations pertaining to a hostile work environment and other claims.

The Defendant employer filed a Petition for Judgment Non Pros asserting a lack of prosecution of the claim as reflected by the lack of docket activity over a two (2) year period dating from January of 2018 through January of 2020.

Judge Nealon reviewed the applicable law and noted that, to secure a judgment of non pros for failure to prosecute a civil litigation matter, the moving party must establish that (1) the Plaintiff has shown a want of due diligence by failing to proceed with reasonable promptness, (2) that there is no compelling reason for the delay, and three (3) that the delay has caused actual prejudice to the Defendant.

The court further noted that prejudice in this context consist of any substantial diminution of a party’s ability to properly present its case at trial, such as the death or absence of another material witness or the destruction or loss of relevant evidence.

While the court agreed that the Defendant had demonstrated that the Plaintiff had neglected to diligently prosecute this action without compelling reason for having failed to do so, the Defendant had not identified the actual prejudice that the Defendant had suffered as a result. As such, the petition was denied under the standard of review required.

Judge Nealon took an additional step and noted that, although the Petition was denied, given that it had been 5 ½ years since the case was instituted, and given that the Defendant was entitled to have this action timely concluded, the court was laying down deadlines for the completion of discovery, exchange of expert reports, and the filing of any dispositive motions and a Certificate of Readiness. The court issued these deadlines on a sua sponte basis.

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

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