HARRISBURG – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has nullified the striking of a six-figure foreign judgment previously reached against a Wall Township, N.J.-based contractor and remanded the case back to its trial court.

On Oct. 18, Judge John T. Bender decided to vacate a Sept. 22, 2015 order opening and striking a foreign judgment against Longview Construction, LLC, with future proceedings to transpire in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.

“On March 19, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint against Longview in the Supreme Court of New York, Dutchess County. The complaint was served on Longview on April 3, 2013, and again on April 17, 2013. After Longview failed to file an answer to the complaint, plaintiff petitioned for judgment. On July 23, 2013, default judgment was entered by the Supreme Court of New York in favor of plaintiff and against Longview,” Bender said.

Bender explained on July 14, 2015, plaintiff Dutchess Quarry & Supply Co., Inc. filed with the Berks County Prothonotary a praecipe for Registration of Foreign Judgment pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. The praecipe stated the judgment amount was $184,601.77, not including costs of litigation and attorney’s fees, which totaled out to $1,374.25.

“On July 23, 2015, Longview, by way of attorney Nicole Plank, Esq., filed a Petition to Open/Strike Default Judgment in Berks County, Pennsylvania, alleging that when the default judgment was entered in the state of New York, the parties were attempting to ‘reconcile this matter,” Bender said.

“Longview further alleged that it had a valid defense to the underlying lawsuit. Specifically, Longview alleged that it “never ordered any construction materials from plaintiff between July 2011 and October 2011, and never received any construction materials from plaintiff between July 2011 and October 2011,” Bender added.

On Aug. 11, 2015, the trial court entered a rule to show cause order on plaintiff and scheduled argument on questions of law for Sept. 16, 2015. On Sept. 2, 2015, plaintiff filed an answer and new matter to Longview’s petition, denying that Longview had a meritorious defense. On Sept. 18, 2015, following argument on the petition, the court entered an order, striking off the default judgment.

“On Oct. 7, 2015, plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal followed by a timely court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement of errors complained of on appeal. Herein, plaintiff presents the following sole issue for our review: “Did the trial court err when it opened and struck the New York Judgment at issue in this matter, via its Sept. 22, 2015 order as later explained by its opinion of Feb. 8, 2016?”, Bender said.

Bender termed it “unclear” whether the trial court meant to “open” or “strike” the default judgment.

“The Sept. 22, 2015 order states that the judgment shall be ‘opened and stricken,’ but the court’s Rule 1925(a) opinion merely addresses the merits for ‘opening’ a judgment,” Bender said. “It is well-settled under Pennsylvania law that opening a default judgment and striking a default judgment are two distinct remedies, and that the two are generally not interchangeable.”

Bender delineated that for purposes of this appeal, the distinction between these two dispositions is “vital”, due to it impacting the Court’s ability to review the instant matter.

“Based on the record before us, we are unable to make a determination as to whether the trial court intended to open or strike the judgment. It would also be premature for this Court to determine if an order striking judgment in this case is final and appealable under the rationale in Hohider,” Bender stated.

Bender continued by vacating the Sept. 22, 2015 order and remanded the case for the trial court to issue a new order clearly indicating whether it is granting Longview’s petition to open or strike the default judgment.

“If the order is revised to strike the default judgment, and appellant again files a timely appeal, the court must issue a new 1925(a) opinion discussing the finality of the order and the rationale underlying its decision to strike,” Bender said.

“Order vacated. Case remanded for proceedings consistent with this memorandum. Jurisdiction relinquished,” Bender continued.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 1761 MDA 2015

Berks County Court of Common Pleas case 15-15040

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

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