PART I. GENERAL
[231 PA. CODE CHS. 200 AND 1300]
Amendment of Rules 218 and 1303; No. 299; Civil Procedural Rules Doc. No. 5
[28 Pa.B. 3930]
And Now, this 30th day of July, 1998, Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 218 and 1303 are amended to read as follows.
This Order shall be processed in accordance with Pa.R.J.A. 103(b) and shall be effective January 1, 1999.
TITLE 231. RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
PART I. GENERAL
CHAPTER 200. BUSINESS OF COURTS
Rule 218. Party Not Ready When Case is Called for Trial.
(a) [When] Where a case is called for trial, if without satisfactory excuse a plaintiff is not ready, the court may enter a nonsuit on motion of the defendant or a non pros on the court's own motion.
* * * * *
(c) A party who fails to appear for trial shall be deemed to be not ready without satisfactory excuse.
Official Note: The mere failure to appear for trial is a ground for the entry of a nonsuit or a judgment of non pros or the reinstatement of a compulsory arbitration award.
A nonsuit is subject to the filing of a motion under Rule 227.1(a)(3) for post-trial relief to remove the nonsuit and a judgment of non pros is subject to the filing of a petition under Rule 3051 for relief from a judgment of non pros.
A decision of the court following a trial at which the defendant failed to appear is subject to the filing of a motion for post-trial relief which may include a request for a new trial on the ground of a satisfactory excuse for the defendant's failure to appear.
CHAPTER 1300. COMPULSORY ARBITRATION
Subchapter A. RULES
Rule 1303. Hearing Notice.
(a)(1) The procedure for fixing the date, time and place of hearing before a board of arbitrators shall be prescribed by local rule, provided that not less than thirty days' notice in writing shall be given to the parties or their attorneys of record.
Official Note: See Rule 248 as to shortening or extending the time for the giving of notice.
(2) The local rule may provide that the written notice required by subdivision (a)(1) include the following statement:
''This matter will be heard by a board of arbitrators at the time, date and place specified but, if one or more of the parties is not present at the hearing, the matter may be heard at the same time and date before a judge of the court without the absent party or parties. There is no right to a trial de novo on appeal from a decision entered by a judge.''
Official Note: A party is present if the party or an attorney who has entered an appearance on behalf of the party attends the hearing.
(b) When the board is convened for hearing, if one [party] or more parties is not ready [and the other is not] the case shall proceed and the arbitrators shall make an award unless the court
(1) orders a continuance, or
(2) hears the matter if the notice of hearing contains the statement required by subdivision (a)(2) and all parties present consent.
Official Note: It is within the discretion of the court whether it should hear the matter or whether the matter should proceed in arbitration. If the court is to hear the matter, it should be heard on the same date as the scheduled arbitration hearing.
In hearing the matter, the trial court may take action not available to the arbitrators, including the entry of a nonsuit if the plaintiff is not ready or a non pros if neither party is ready. If the defendant is not ready, it may hear the matter and enter a decision.
For relief from a nonsuit, see Rule 227.1 governing post-trial practice. See also Rule 3051 governing relief from a judgment of non pros.
Following an adverse decision, a defendant who has failed to appear may file a motion for post-trial relief which may include a request for a new trial on the ground of a satisfactory excuse for the defendant's failure to appear.
If at a hearing before a board of arbitrators one party was ready and the other was not, Rule of Civil Procedure 1303 previously provided for the arbitration to proceed and an award to be made unless the court ordered a continuance. Under this rule, some courts experienced the problem of a party failing to appear for the arbitration hearing and then appealing for a trial de novo before the court.
Rule 1303 has been amended to provide an additional alternative in such a circumstance and allow a court of common pleas by local rule to provide that the court may hear the case if the notice of hearing so advised the parties and all parties present agree. If the court hears the matter, then the parties will have had their trial in the court of common pleas. Relief from the decision of the court will be by motion for post-trial relief following the entry of a nonsuit or a decision of the court or by petition to open a judgment of non pros. Relief from the action of the trial court will be by appeal to an appellate court. As the new notice advises, there will be ''no right to a de novo trial on appeal from a decision entered by a judge.''
Rule 218 governs the instance when a party is not ready when a case is called for trial. The note to subdivision (c) prior to its amendment referred to the right of a plaintiff to seek relief from the entry of a nonsuit or a judgment of non pros but omitted any reference to a defendant seeking relief from the decision of the court following a trial. A new paragraph has been added to the note calling attention to the defendant's right to file a motion for post-trial relief ''on the ground of a satisfactory excuse for the defendant's failure to appear.''
By the Civil Procedural Rules Committee
EDWIN L. KLETT,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 98-1306. Filed for public inspection August 14, 1998, 9:00 a.m.]
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