Judges Opinions, — July 24, 2013 11:27 — 0 Comments

Moro, Nasta vs. Hollinger, et al No. 2013-00043 and 02622

 Civil Action – Motion for Consolidation and Coordination of Actions – Determination of Venue – First Complaint Filed – Interpretation and Construction of Rules of Civil Procedure.

  1. In actions pending in different counties which involve a common question of law or fact or which arise from the same transaction or occurrence, any party, with notice to all other parties, may file a motion requesting the court in which a complaint was first filed to order coordination of the actions.  Any party may file an answer to the motion and the court may hold a hearing.
  2. For purposes of deciding a motion for coordination of actions in different counties, a court should look to where a complaint was first filed in  a court of common pleas, regardless of what may have previously transpired.
  3. The object of all interpretation and construction of rules is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the Supreme Court.   Every rule shall be construed, if possible, to give effect to all its provisions.  When the words of a rule are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit.
  4. The Court held that because the first complaint was filed in Lancaster County that Court of Common  Pleas was the proper forum to rule on Defendant’s Motion to Consolidate, and that it could not make that determination.

Motion to Consolidate and Coordinate Actions.  C.P. of Lebanon County, Civil Action-Law, No. 2013-00043 and 02622.

David B. Dowling, Esquire, for Plaintiff Nasta

John M. Zimmerman, Esquire, for Plaintiff Moro

Thomas E. Brenner, Esquire, for Defendant Estate of Cody Austin Hollinger

Paul Grego, Esquire, for Defendants Neal

Randall Justice, Esquire for Defendants Estates of Bryson, Griffith and Lee

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

CIVIL DIVISION

 

RENEE J. MORO,                             :

:
Plaintiff,                :

:

v.                                       :      No: 2013-00043

:

ESTATE OF CODY AUSTIN             :

HOLLINGER, by its                          :

Administrator, HENRY M.               :

KOCH, JR., BRUCE NEAL,              :

PAMELA J. NEAL, and                    :

NEIL J. NASTA,                                :

:

                             Defendants.          :

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY,

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL DIVISION

 

NEIL J. NASTA,                                :

:

Plaintiff,                :

:

v.                                      :      No: 2012-02622

:

ESTATE OF CODY AUSTIN             :

HOLLINGER, by its                          :

Administrator, HENRY M.               :

KOCH, JR., and BRUCE NEAL,      :

and PAMELA J. NEAL,                    :

:

Defendants.          :

 

 

 

ORDER

 

And now, to wit, this 7th day of May, 2013, upon consideration of

the Motion to Consolidate and Coordinate Actions, this Court cannot entertain the merits of the Motion as the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas is the proper Court to dispose of the Motion pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213.1. The Motion should be transferred to the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas for disposition.

 

 

BY THE COURT:

 

 

_________________,J.

SAMUEL A. KLINE

 

cc:     David B. Dowling, Esq.

Thomas E. Brenner, Esq.

Paul W. Grego, Esq.

John M. Zimmerman, Esq.

Randall M. Justice, Esq.

 

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

CIVIL DIVISION

 

RENEE J. MORO,                             :

:
Plaintiff,                :

:

v.                                       :      No: 2013-00043

:

ESTATE OF CODY AUSTIN             :

HOLLINGER, by its                          :

Administrator, HENRY M.               :

KOCH, JR., BRUCE NEAL,              :

PAMELA J. NEAL, and                    :

NEIL J. NASTA,                                :

:

                             Defendants.          :

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY,

PENNSYLVANIA

 

CIVIL DIVISION

 

NEIL J. NASTA,                                :

:

Plaintiff,                :

:

v.                                      :      No: 2012-02622

:

ESTATE OF CODY AUSTIN             :

HOLLINGER, by its                          :

Administrator, HENRY M.               :

KOCH, JR., and BRUCE NEAL,      :

and PAMELA J. NEAL,                    :

:

Defendants.          :

 

APPEARANCES:

David B. Dowling, Esq. for Neil J. Nasta

 

John M. Zimmerman, Esq. for Renee Moro

Thomas E. Brenner, Esq. for Estate of Cody Austin Hollinger by its

Administrator Henry M. Koch, Jr.

Paul Grego, Esq. for Bruce Neal and Pamela J. Neal

Randall Justice, Esq. for Estates of Nicholas Bryson, John Griffith, and

DeVaughn Lee[1]

 

AMENDED OPINION, KLINE, J., MAY 7, 2013[2]

Before the Court is a Motion to Consolidate and Coordinate Actions.  For the reasons set forth herein, this Court cannot entertain the merits of the Motion as the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas is the proper Court to dispose of the Motion, as specified below.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 5, 2012, an action was filed in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania by Neal Nasta, who was the driver of a vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident on January 16, 2011, with the vehicle operated by Cody Hollinger.  This action was initiated by a writ of summons.  A complaint was filed on April 16, 2013.

On January 9, 2013, an action was filed in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania on behalf of Renee Moro, who was a passenger in a vehicle involved in the aforementioned motor vehicle accident.  The action was initiated by a writ of summons.

On January 15, 2013, an action was filed in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania by the estates of three passengers who were traveling with Cody Hollinger at the time of the same accident.  A complaint was filed to

commence this action.

The Estate of Cody Hollinger filed the instant Motion to Consolidate on March 1, 2013.  There are three different actions pending arising from one motor vehicle accident.  The Estate of Cody Hollinger requests that these matters be consolidated to avoid duplicate discovery motions and court proceedings.  Counsel for Henry M. Koch, Jr., as Administrator of the Estate of Cody Austin Hollinger, Neal Nasta, Renee Moro, Bruce Neal, and Pamela Neal all agree to consolidation.

Counsel for the estates of Nicholas Bryson, John Griffith, and DeVaughn Lee opposes consolidation.  Counsel opposing the consolidation argues that this Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the merits of the Motion to Consolidate pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213.1 because the first complaint was filed in Lancaster County.

The case was listed for the April 2013 Term of Argument Court.  Oral argument was heard on April 26, 2013.  The case is thus before us and ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

          Disposition of this matter is governed by Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213.1.  Subdivision(a) of Rule 213.1 provides the procedure for an order of coordination.[3]  That Rule provides as follows, in relevant part:

Rule 213.1. Coordination of Actions in Different Counties

(a) In actions pending in different counties which involve a common question of law or fact or which arise from the same transaction or occurrence, any party, with notice to all other parties, may file a motion requesting the court in which a complaint was first filed to order coordination of the actions. Any party may file an answer to the motion and the court may hold a hearing.

 

Pa.R.C.P. 213.1(a). (emphasis added).

A comment to the Rule also states,

Subdivision (a) provides the procedure for obtaining an order of coordination: motion, answer and hearing. The procedure is deliberately left general and flexible. The two stated requirements are that the motion must be “with notice to all other parties” and that the request be made to “the court in which a complaint was first filed”. Notice must be given to all parties in all actions which are to be coordinated. The court in which the first complaint was filed establishes a forum for the coordination proceedings.

 

Pa.R.C.P. 213.1. (emphasis added).  For purposes of deciding a motion for coordination of actions in different counties, a court should look to where a complaint was first filed in a court of common pleas, regardless of what may have previously transpired. Digimatics, Inc. v. ABC Advisors, Inc., 760 A.2d 390 (Pa. Super. 2000).  The decision to transfer and coordinate actions pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213.1 is restricted to the court for the county in which the first complaint was filed. Lincoln General Ins. Co. v. Donahue, 616 A.2d 1076 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1992).

When it comes to interpreting the Rules of Civil Procedure, the intent of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania controls.  Pa.R.C.P. 127 provides:

Rule 127. Construction of Rules. Intent of Supreme Court Controls

 

(a) The object of all interpretation and construction of rules is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the Supreme Court.

 

(b) Every rule shall be construed, if possible, to give effect to all its provisions. When the words of a rule are clear and free from all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit.

 

(c) When the words of a rule are not explicit, the intention of the Supreme Court may be ascertained by considering, among other matters (1) the occasion and necessity for the rule; (2) the circumstances under which it was promulgated; (3) the mischief to be remedied; (4) the object to be attained; (5) the prior practice, if any, including other rules and Acts of Assembly upon the same or similar subjects; (6) the consequences of a particular interpretation; (7) the contemporaneous history of the rule; and (8) the practice followed under the rule.

 

Pa.R.C.P. 127.

The words in Pa.R.C.P. 213.1 are clear and free from doubt.  The Rule specifically states that the court in which the first complaint was filed establishes a forum for the coordination proceedings.  Had the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania intended for a court where a writ of summons was first filed established the forum for the coordination proceedings, then it would have said so.   The Rule does not state …“any party, with notice to all other parties, may file a motion requesting the court in which a complaint or writ of summons was first filed to order coordination of the actions.”  The Rule also does not state, “…any party, with notice to all other parties, may file a motion requesting the court in which an action was first filed to order coordination of the actions.”  The Rule specifically states “in which a complaint was first filed.”  Therefore, this Court is constrained to follow the explicit and unambiguous language in the Rule.

Two complaints have been filed thus far.  The first complaint was filed in Lancaster County.  Therefore, the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas is the proper forum to rule on the Motion to Consolidate, and this Court cannot make that determination.  We will enter an Order consistent with the foregoing.



[1] The Estates of Nicholas Bryson, John Griffith, and DeVaughn Lee are the Plaintiffs in a third action filed in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. CI-13-00417.

[2] The Court has issued an Amended Opinion in this matter to correct certain facts the Court was not initially aware of when the first Opinion was filed.  The changes do not affect the ruling in this matter.

[3] A comment to the Rule states, “Subdivision(a) provides the procedure for obtaining an order of coordination: motion, answer and hearing.  The procedure is deliberately left general and flexible.”  The matter was listed for oral argument as a praecipe for disposition was filed rather than a praecipe for a hearing.

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