Nicholas Malfitano Feb. 18, 2016, 2:20pm


PITTSBURGH – A prior-decided $10,000-plus judgment against a financial entity’s cardholder will stand, according to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Judges Judith Ference Olson, Victor P. Stabile and Eugene B. Strassburger III ruled Jan. 20 to affirm the judgment of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, which ruled nearly one year ago that this matter’s appellee CreditOne, was entitled to payment in the amount of $10,330.00 plus costs from appellant Paul A. Schofield.

Schofield challenged the propriety of CreditOne’s introduction of documentary evidence, pursuant to Rule 1311.1(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, permits a party to introduce unauthenticated documentary evidence in a de novo trial following arbitration. Schofield argued Rule 1311.1(b) did not apply in this case, because the person who could have authenticated the documents is beyond the subpoena power of the court.

Schofield used a Citibank (CreditOne’s predecessor-in-interest) credit card from 2002 through 2004, making sporadic payments. On April 5, 2004, Schofield made a $100 payment to Citibank toward an alleged balance due of $12,758.09, then made no further payments.

Citibank eventually assigned Schofield’s account to DebtOne and finally CreditOne, who began arbitration proceedings to collect Schofield’s unpaid balance. CreditOne prevailed in that proceeding and Schofield appealed to de novo non-jury trial.

On Aug. 16, 2011, CreditOne decided to levy a $25,000 maximum in recoverable damages from the de novo trial. CreditOne also noticed its intent to produce documentary evidence under Rule 1311.1(b), including billing statements and documentation of the assignments from Citibank to DebtOne, and from DebtOne to CreditOne.

At the conclusion of the de novo trial on Jan. 9, 2012, the court entered a verdict in favor of CreditOne. CreditOne reduced the verdict to a judgment of $10,330.00 plus costs on Feb. 23, 2015. However, Schofield appealed to the Superior Court in challenging the admissibility of CreditOne’s records at the de novo trial.

Schofield did this using Rule 1311.1(d), which would give him the right to subpoena an appropriate person to verify the authenticity of any records introduced into evidence under 1311.1(b).

“The trial court rejected appellant’s argument, because [the] appellant failed to subpoena appellee to produce an individual to testify regarding the documents in question,” Stabile said. “The trial court noted that appellee’s chief financial officer [Suzanne Middleton], who verified appellee’s complaint, was a signatory to both assignment agreements.”

Though Schofield argued Citibusiness, the originator of the billing statements, is in Nevada and outside the Superior Court’s jurisdiction, Stabile pointed out that Schofield did not address the trial court’s finding that Middleton would have been capable of authenticating the records in question.

“We agree with the trial court that appellant’s failure to issue a subpoena or notice to attend pursuant to Rule 1311.1(d) is fatal to his argument on appeal,” Stabile said.

“Rule 1311.1(d) puts the onus on the party challenging the admissibility of documentary evidence under Rule 1311.1(b) to take appropriate action,” Stabile added.

Stabile concluded Schofield did not produce the necessary evidence to show the records were not properly verified.

“The record contains nothing more than appellant’s bald assertion that Middleton could not have sufficiently authenticated the credit card statements in question. We therefore have no basis upon which to grant relief,” Stabile said.

The appellant is represented by Thomas J. Dausch in Pittsburgh.

The appellee is represented by James C. Warmbrodt, also in Pittsburgh.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 475 WDA 2015

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case AR-09-001551

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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