Judges Opinions, — March 27, 2012 11:20 — 0 Comments

Discover Bank vs. Nolt

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL ACTION

 

NO. 2009-02570

DISCOVER BANK vs. NOLT

 

 

Civil Action – Pa.R.C.P. No. 1311.1 – Admission of Documentary Evidence – Pa.R.C.P. No. 1305 – Evidence of Charges Incurred – Authentication – Appeal from Arbitration.

 

 

  1. The overall objective of compulsory arbitration is the expeditious disposition of pending litigation.
  2. While compulsory arbitration provides the parties with a more expeditious and inexpensive alternative to trial, the adoption of such system does not deprive a common pleas court of jurisdiction to hear matters subject to arbitration.
  3. Rule 1311.1, relating to procedure on appeal and the admission of documentary evidence, provides that if the plaintiff has filed and served a stipulation as provided in subdivision (1), any party may offer at trial the documents set forth in Rule 1305(b)(1).  The documents offered shall be admitted if the party offering them has provided written notice to every other party of the intention to offer the documents at trial at least twenty days from the date the appeal is first listed for trial.  The written notice shall be accompanied by a copy of each document to be offered.
  4. The purpose of Rule 1311.1 is to reduce the time and costs associated with calling witnesses to authenticate documents introduced at trial  In exchange for this cost-saving benefit, a plaintiff agrees to limit damages, regardless of the jury’s verdict in his or her favor.
  5. Rule 1305 allows the admission of bills or other documents evidencing charges incurred in addition to business records.
  6. A document which is received into evidence under Rule 1311.1 may be used for only those purposes which would be permissible if the person whose testimony is waived by this rule were present and testifying at the hearing.
  7. If authenticity is an issue, a Defendant has the option, pursuant to Rule 1311.1(d), to subpoena a person whose testimony is waived.
  8. The Court held that the monthly statements of Defendant’s account were documents evidencing charges incurred and that the signed credit card application and credit card agreements evidenced charges incurred and, in the alternative, the signed credit card application and credit card agreements also were admissible as business records.  Because all the documents Plaintiff proposed to introduce at trial fell under the purview of Rule 1305(b)(1), the Court dismissed Defendant’s Objection to the Vitality of Alleged Evidence Submitted.

Objection to Vitality of Alleged Evidence.  C.P. of Lebanon County, Civil Action-Law, No. 2009-02570.

James Warmbrodt, Esquire, for Plaintiff

Jody A. Nolt, Pro Se

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL ACTION

 

 

DISCOVER BANK,                                  :

Plaintiff                                                        :

                                                                   :

          v.                                                       :                            NO. 2009-02570

                                                                   :

JODY A. NOLT                                        :

Defendant                                                    :

                                                                   :

 

ORDER

 

AND NOW, this 23rd day of February, 2012, after a review of the record, Defendant’s Objection to the Vitality of Alleged Evidence Submitted Under Rule 1311.1 is OVERRULED.

                                                                  

 

BY THE COURT:

          ____________________________, J.

             CHARLES T. JONES, JR.

 

 

 

Cc: James Warmbrodt, Esquire

Jody Nolt, pro se

 

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL ACTION

 

 

DISCOVER BANK,                                  :

Plaintiff                                                        :

                                                                   :

          v.                                                       :                            NO. 2009-02570

                                                                   :

JODY A. NOLT                                        :

Defendant                                                    :

                                                                   :

 

APPEARANCES:

 

James Warmbrodt, Esquire                                                   For Plaintiff

Weltman, Weinberg & Reis

 

Jody A. Nolt, Pro Se                        

                                        

OPINION BY JONES, JR., J.:

Before the Court is Defendant’s Objection to the Vitality of Alleged Evidence Submitted Under Rule 1311.1. Plaintiff filed a Complaint on November 2, 2009, alleging that Defendant was in default for failing to make monthly payments on her credit card obligation to Plaintiff. Defendant filed an Answer on December 3, 2009 which contained a Counterclaim. On December 18, 2009, Plaintiff filed Preliminary Objections to Defendant’s Counterclaim which were sustained by this Court. On October 29, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was denied by this Court.

In June of 2011, Defendant filed a Motion to Compel and a Motion to Dismiss on Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, which were both denied by this Court. The matter was listed for arbitration on June 23, 2011. On June 27, 2011 arbitrators were appointed by the Honorable Samuel Kline, and an arbitration hearing was held on September 19, 2011. On September 22, 2011, an Arbitration Award was entered in Plaintiff’s favor and against Defendant in the amount of $4,485.44, plus interest and costs. Defendant filed a timely Notice of Appeal on October 17, 2011.

On November 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Intent to Offer Documentary Evidence Pursuant to Rule 1311.1, wherein Plaintiff provided the signed credit card application, dated November 16, 2000, the credit card agreement, copies of monthly statements for Defendant’s account from April 25, 2003 through August 25, 2009, and Defendant’s Answer to Plaintiff’s Request for Admissions. On December 5, 2011, Defendant filed an Objection to the Vitality of Alleged Evidence Submitted Under Rule 1311.1, seeking dismissal of the documents provided by Plaintiff. The matter was listed for Argument Court held on January 27, 2012. The parties waived oral argument, agreeing to dispose of the matter via submission of briefs. Both parties have filed briefs, and the matter is ripe for disposition.

 

DISCUSSION

Defendant alleges that the signed credit card application, credit card agreement and monthly statements should be dismissed because they are unauthenticated. We find that Defendant’s argument lacks merit.

“The overall objective of compulsory arbitration is the expeditious disposition of pending litigation.” Monahan v. McGrath, 636 A.2d 1197, 1199 (Pa.Super.1994). While compulsory arbitration provides the parties with a more expeditious and inexpensive alternative to trial, the adoption of such system does not deprive a common pleas court of jurisdiction to hear matters subject to arbitration. Monahan, 636 A.2d at 1199. Rule 1311.1, relating to procedure on appeal and the admission of documentary evidence, provides:

(b) If the plaintiff has filed and served a stipulation as provided in subdivision (a), any party may offer at trial the documents set forth in Rule 1305(b)(1). The documents offered shall be admitted if the party offering them has provided written notice to every other party of the intention to offer the documents at trial at least twenty days from the date the appeal is first listed for trial. The written notice shall be accompanied by a copy of each document to be offered.

 

Pa. R. Civ. P. 1311.1. The purpose of this rule is to reduce the time and costs associated with calling witnesses to authenticate documents introduced at trial. LaRue v. McGuire, 885 A.2d 549 (Pa.Super.2005). In exchange for this cost-saving benefit, a plaintiff agrees to limit damages, regardless of the jury’s verdict in his or her favor. McGuire, 885 A.2d at 553.

Rule 1305 allows the admission of “bills or other documents evidencing charges incurred” in addition to business records. Pa. R. Civ. P. 1305(b)(1). A document which is received into evidence under Rule 1311.1 may be used for “only those purposes which would be permissible if the person whose testimony is waived by this rule were present and testifying at the hearing.” Pa. R. Civ. P. 1311.1(c).

In the instant case, there is no dispute that Plaintiff has filed and served a timely stipulation and notice pursuant to Rule 1311.1. The basis of Defendant’s argument is that the documents sought to be admitted by Plaintiff should be dismissed because they are unauthenticated. As previously stated, Rule 1305 specifically provides that bills and other documents evidencing charges incurred shall be admitted into evidence. As such, the monthly statements of Defendant’s account would clearly fall under the purview of Rule 1305(b)(1). We also find that the signed credit card application and credit card agreement are documents evidencing charges incurred. In the alternative, those documents constitute business records which would otherwise be admissible if authenticated by a custodian of records. See Pa.R.E. 803(6). We would note that if authenticity is an issue, Defendant has the option, pursuant to Rule 1311.1(d), to subpoena a person whose testimony is waived. Nevertheless, the documents sought to be admitted by Plaintiff fall under the scope of Rules 1305 and 1311.1. Accordingly, Defendant’s Objection to the Vitality of Alleged Evidence Submitted Under Rule 1311.1 is hereby dismissed. An Order shall be entered consistent with the foregoing.

 

 

 

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