Court affirms default judgment against Lit Ultrabar over bar fight

By Mike Helenthal | Jun 30, 2017

HARRISBURG – The state Superior Court has affirmed a lower court decision against the owner of a Philadelphia bar in a lawsuit that was filed by a woman who alleged she suffered injuries during a fight at the establishment.

The woman, Angelina Wilson, was allegedly injured in 2013 at Lit Ultrabar after a fight broke out at about 4 a.m. involving patrons and employees of the bar, which is owned by David Braverman.

According to the complaint, Wilson had suffered “serious and permanent injuries to her face, head and body” because of the fight.

A circuit court had denied Braverman’s petition in 2016 to open a default judgment in the case, which was the focus of Bravermen’s appeal. A default judgment can be issued when a defendant fails to respond to a summons or appear in court.

In the Lit Ultrabar case, the opinion says Braverman failed to respond to the complaint Wilson filed in 2016. Later that year, Wilson was granted a default judgment and Braverman’s petition to open it was denied by the trial court – an action that led to the appeal.

The appeals court said in its June 9 decision that the trial court’s decision was correct since Braverman did not adequately explain his reasoning for not responding to the complaint in a timely manner.

“Here, the only excuse provided by appellant for his failure to file a responsive pleading was ‘that he was searching for an attorney,’” Judge Carl Solano wrote in the opinion. In fact, Braverman did not hire legal counsel until 18 months after the original complaint by Wilson.

The court used a three-prong test to affirm the original lower court judgment: the prompt filing of a petition to open the default judgment; meritorious defense; and a reasonable excuse or explanation for its failure to file a responsive pleading.

“The rules do not permit such a complete disregard of pleading requirements for five months,” the judges wrote in affirming the decision, “and ‘searching for an attorney’ cannot justify such a lengthy delay.”

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