HARRISBURG – Through appeal, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the dismissal of a wrongful termination case’s from its original court in a recent ruling handed down recently.

Superior Court judges Jack A. Panella, Anne E. Lazarus and Correale F. Stevens affirmed the prior dismissal order of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas towards an appeal from plaintiff Loretta Epps, versus defendants Dunbar Community Counseling Services, Dr. Reginald Banks and Yolanda Banks, in a unanimous decision issued on June 29. Panella spoke for the Court in the decision.

“Epps asks us to review the order denying her request to file an appeal nunc pro tunc. While we conclude that a breakdown in court operations occurred, we nevertheless affirm the order on the basis that the proposed appeal would be interlocutory,” Panella said.

Epps initially filed a complaint against the defendants, charging she had been wrongfully terminated from her employment after revealing their fraudulent conduct. In response, the defendants filed a response denying Epps’s allegations and levying counterclaims against of defamation and commercial disparagement.

On July 31, 2015, the trial court gave Epps notice it had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all of Epps’s claims. However, the defendants’ counterclaims were still intact, since neither party had filed for summary judgment on the counterclaims. The case was listed for trial that October.

On Aug. 21, 2015 Epps tried to file a notice of appeal from the defendants’ summary judgment order which had been granted. The trial court prothonotary rejected the filing, supposedly over the failure to include a certificate of service which identified the trial court as a recipient.

“This, the trial court prothonotary was not permitted to do,” Panella said. “Shortly after being notified that the affidavit of service was deficient, Epps filed a corrected affidavit of service. The corrected affidavit of service was accepted by the prothonotary and is in the certified record, while the notice of appeal it references is not.”

“The events that followed amply support the propriety of the rule…the trial court first entered an order directing Epps to file a statement of matters complained of on appeal, and then vacated the order, noting that the order was ‘without prejudice for petitioner to re-file.’ Epps attempted to determine what had gone wrong, and eventually filed a second notice of appeal on Oct. 5,” Panella explained.

The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas once again ordered Epps to file a statement of matters complained of on appeal, and Epps did so. The Superior Court then dismissed the appeal as untimely on Jan. 19, 2016.

“On Feb. 16, 2016, Epps filed a petition for allowance of appeal nunc pro tunc. The trial court denied the petition, and this timely appeal followed. As noted previously, it is undisputed that the trial court prothonotary acted without authority in rejecting Epps’s notice of appeal. As such, there clearly was a breakdown in the court’s operation that acted to nullify her attempt to appeal,” Panella said.

“However, it is equally apparent from the record that the order Epps desired to appeal was interlocutory. A party may only appeal from a final order unless otherwise permitted by rule or statute. A final order is any order that disposes of all claims and all parties. As noted above, defendants’ counterclaims were still pending and listed for trial when Epps attempted to file the notice of appeal. A review of the certified record before us reveals no indication that defendants’ counterclaims have been resolved. As such, we conclude that Epps was not denied her right to appeal, as that right has not yet ripened. Order affirmed. Jurisdiction relinquished,” Panella said.

The plaintiff is represented by Regina D. Poserina of Begelman & Orlow, in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The defendants are represented by Jonathan R. Cavalier of Cozen O’Connor, in Philadelphia.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 1232 EDA 2016

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 140603646

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

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