PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia judge rescinded a Judgment of Non Pros ruling he previously issued in a motor vehicle accident case last month, after learning the reason for plaintiff counsel's absence at a pre-trial conference and rule returnable meeting. 

On June 15, 2016, Judge John M. Younge ordered a rule issued upon plaintiff Marybeth Haslam-Houck and Christopher Houck, and their counsel Blake L. Berenbaum, to explain why the plaintiffs’ case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute and a failure to appear at a previous mandatory pre-trial conference. All parties were called to appear at this rule returnable meeting unless the case was settled or withdrawn, in which case counsel were to notify the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in writing.

However, Berenbaum said he was attached by Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio during the entire month of June to complete depositions of all fact witnesses in another case, a wrongful death/survival action that stemmed from a fatal shooting by the Camden County Police and New Jersey State Police. On the date of the pre-trial conference, it was asserted an officer of the court did not advise Younge of Berenbaum's attachment to the shooting case, and the rule returnable meeting was slated for a day when depositions in that other case were already scheduled. Berenbaum created an addendum to Donio's attachment detailing this other commitment, but Younge did not receive it in time.

Subsequently, on June 27, 2016, Younge entered a Judgment of Non Pros in the instant case. Berenbaum appealed Younge's decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, however, this appeal was later withdrawn and the matter left to Younge. Once Berenbaum's addendum to Donio's attachment explaining the reasons for his absence from the prior pre-trial conference was presented to Younge, the judge rescinded the initial Judgment of Non Pros on Dec. 6.

The case remains pending and proceedings continue.

On April 4, 2013, Haslam-Houck allegedly sustained injuries when the vehicle she was operating stopped due to traffic between 13th Street and Broad Street on the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia, when it was rear-ended by defendant Sean McCarthy’s vehicle (in turn, owned by fellow defendant Christopher Henderson). The suit says speeding and negligent driving were among the causes of the crash.

Haslam-Houck allegedly suffered injuries to her head, neck, arms, back and legs in the accident and may have incurred losses in excess of the maximum recoverable amount under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (PMVFRL).

The plaintiffs are each seeking damages jointly and severally, in excess of $50,000 in this case. This includes a claim from Christopher Houck for loss of consortium.

The plaintiffs are represented by Berenbaum of Richman Berenbaum Associates, in Trevose.

The defendants are represented by Janet Law of the Law Offices of Francis D. Mackin, in Marlton, N.J.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 150400250

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

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