Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini
HARRISBURG – Per a Sept. 18 ruling from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, a default judgment in excess of $16,000 now has the chance to be opened in its remanding to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.
The Commonwealth Court overturned a May 2014 decision of the trial court, which denied Kristina A. Nash the opportunity to open the $16,490.44 default judgment against her in a lawsuit filed by Easton Condominium Association, Inc. for “unpaid assessments, late charges, fees, costs and interest.”
The matter came before judges Dan Pellegrini, Mary Hannah Leavitt and Anne E. Covey of the Commonwealth Court, with Pellegrini writing the Court’s opinion vacating that of the trial court.
In January 2014, the association filed a complaint in the trial court alleging that Nash is the record owner of a residential condominium unit in the Eastonian Condominium in Easton, located in Northampton County, and that it was authorized to recover the “unpaid assessments, late charges, fees, costs and interest” pursuant to the Declaration of Condominium and the Uniform Condominium Act under Pennsylvania state law.
The Association further alleged Nash filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 9, 2013, and that court entered a Discharge Order in Nash’s favor on Nov. 13, 2013.
In it, the association said it was only looking to recover “unpaid assessments, late charges, fees, costs and interest” for the period of May 10, 2013, through June 30, 2014, and thereafter under United States Bankruptcy Code.
When Nash didn’t respond to the complaint, a default judgment in the amount of $16,490.44 was entered against her on March 31, 2014. On April 10 of that year, Nash filed a petition to open the judgment under state law – which she was permitted to do as long as she had “a meritorious defense”. The trial court later determined her defense met the criteria to be considered “meritorious”.
In paragraph five of the petition, Nash alleged she listed the association as a creditor in her Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and the November 2013 discharge meant the Association didn’t properly consider the “legal significance” of the discharge.
The trial court disagreed, claiming Nash didn’t provide a reason for her inactivity in responding to the complaint and denying her petition.
Though, Nash argued on appeal to the Commonwealth Court that since her defense was found to be meritorious by the trial court and the response petition was filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment, she wasn’t required to provide any such reason. The Commonwealth Court agreed.
“Accordingly, the trial court’s order is vacated and the case is remanded to the trial court to open the default judgment and to permit Nash to file an answer to the Association’s complaint,” Pellegrini concluded.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania case 2015 C.D. 2014
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org