Statute of limitations on appeal filing gets negligence suit against storage facility dismissed

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jul 19, 2018


HARRISBURG – According to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, a trial court was right to approve preliminary objections in a negligence-based property damage action, on the basis that the statute of limitations associated with the charges had expired.

In a ruling reached July 17, Superior Court judges Judith Ference Olson, Deborah A. Kunselman and John L. Musmanno affirmed an order from the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas, sustaining preliminary objections of Weigh Scales Mini Storage, Inc., Weigh Scales Mini Storage, Ronald Venn and Isle Venn.

In October 2014, Woodland rented a storage unit from Weigh Scales, storing many valuable and sentimental personal possessions from a three-bedroom house there, including books, paintings and mementos. When visiting the storage unit several months later in March 2015, Woodland discovered it was infested with mice and many of her treasured items were ruined.

Weigh Scales waived rent payments for the months of April and May 2015, but refused to return Woodland’s $35 security deposit and required her to vacate the unit by May 31, 2015.

“Due to illness, Ms. Woodland was unable to remove her possessions from the unit or address the infestation until May 2015. At that time, she brought what was salvageable to her apartment and threw away what was not. In January 2016, after being misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis in December, Woodland was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease,” Kunselman said.

In the spring of 2016, Woodland learned that mice give Lyme’s disease to deer and contended that not only had the defendants’ negligence led to the loss of her possessions, but also to her contraction of Lyme’s disease and filed a civil lawsuit in the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas in May 2017.

Woodland’s lawsuit contained charges of negligence, misrepresentation and infliction of emotional distress, which caused her to suffer property damage and personal injuries. Woodland sought compensatory damages of $361.77 and $1 million dollars in punitive damages.

Weigh Scales filed preliminary objections in response, for Woodland’s supposed failure to conform to the rule of law, to strike the claim for punitive damages and that the two-year statute of limitations associated with the claims had expired. Woodland did not respond to the objections.

In October 2017, the trial court dismissed the case due to the statute of limitations’ expiration and indicated the remaining objections also would have led to the complaint being dismissed – leading Woodland to appeal.

The Superior Court says it directed Woodland to file “a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal” within 21 days, but Woodland instead submitted the statement on Jan. 18, 2017, eight days after it was due. Though the trial court were prepared to extend leeway to Woodland on this point, the appellate court was not.

“The trial court noted the untimeliness of her statement in its opinion filed on Jan. 23, 2018, but recognizing the need to give pro se litigants some leeway, the trial court still provided a 1925(a) opinion addressing the merits of her appeal. We, however, cannot ignore her untimely filing. Because Woodland filed her 1925(b) statement of errors complained of on appeal after the court ordered deadline, we must find that all of her issues are automatically waived,” Kunselman stated.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 1989 MDA 2017

Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas case CV-17-959

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

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