Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Trial Court's Denial of a Defendant's Petition to Open a Default Judgment After Entry of $23 Million Dollar Verdict

In the case of Roy v. Rue, No. 1598 EDA 2021 (Pa. Super. April 12, 2022 Lazarus, J., Kunselman, J., and Stevens, P.J.E.) (Op. by Stevens, P.J.E.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court’s denial of a Defendant’s Petition to Open and Strike a Default Judgment entered against him by the Plaintiff.

This lawsuit arose out of a fight that occurred at a restaurant that resulted in eventually fatal injuries to the Plaintiff’s decedent. The Plaintiff filed suit against a restaurant and the assailant. The issues in this case pertain to the entry of a default judgment against the assailant.

The restaurant defendant settled out of the case.    

The case eventually went to trial on damages and a verdict was entered against the assailant in an amount in excess of $23 million dollars.

Thereafter, the assailant filed a Petition to Open the Default Judgment. The assailant asserted that he was incarcerated when the trial court held the assessment of damages trial and that he did not appear because he allegedly did not have notice of the trial. The court noted that the docket confirmed that the Prothonotary provided notice to the Defendant of the trial at the Defendant’s home address, at which time the Defendant was in prison.

The Defendant additionally asserted that he was not provided with service of the original process. 

The Defendant also argued that he acted promptly once he learned of the default judgment and that he allegedly had a meritorious defense to the claims in the lawsuit, that being that the Defendant allegedly acted in self-defense.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the trial court properly denied the Defendant’s Petition to Open or Strike the Default Judgment where the Defendant failed to show any defects with regards to the return of service of the Complaint, with regards to the 10-Day Notice of Intent to File a Default Judgment, or with respect to the Notice regarding the trial date on the assessment of damages. 

The court additionally found that the Defendant’s Petition was not timely filed.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 26, 2022).

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