Default judgment in slip-and-fall case against Philadelphia property owners upheld by Commonwealth Court

By Carrie Salls | Jun 12, 2017

HARRISBURG — Two Philadelphia property owners named as defendants in a slip-and-fall lawsuit were denied a request to strike the default judgment entered against them because they failed to respond to the lawsuit filed by the accident victim.

According to the May 24 Commonwealth Court opinion, plaintiff Dante Davis was hurt when he tripped over “a wire, coil or similar object protruding from the pole of a traffic signal” on a sidewalk in Philadelphia.

Defendants Osbourne Walker and Elaine Walker, a married couple, own numerous properties on the block where the accident allegedly occurred, the 4600 block of either North Sydenham Street or North 15th Street in Philadelphia. The Walkers live in Queens, New York.

The Commonwealth Court said the Walkers did not respond to the complaint, for which an agent of the couple allegedly signed, nor did they respond to Davis’ motion for default judgment when it was mailed to them.

However, five months after the default judgment was made against the Walkers in connection with their failure to respond to the court papers, they asked the trial court to strike the judgment, claiming “facially defective” service, the ruling said.

Specifically, the Walkers alleged that they did not sign for the documents, that the person who did sign on their behalf was not, in fact, their agent, and that the writ sent by Davis was not properly delivered in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

“The trial court found that personal service had been made under Pa. R.C.P. No. 403, which provides that when a defendant resides or is located outside the commonwealth, the plaintiff may serve original process ‘by any form of mail requiring a receipt signed by the defendant or his authorized agent,’” the Commonwealth Court said in its order.

In addition, the Commonwealth Court agreed with the lower court’s conclusion that “there was nothing facially defective regarding service of the writ.”

Specifically, the Commonwealth Court said the documents were delivered to the correct address, were sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested, as allowed when the parties being served do not live in Pennsylvania, and that one of the documents was accepted by someone claiming to be an agent of the Walkers.

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