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ZK Result: Attorney Aaron Weiss Wins Dismissal of Lawsuit in PA Supreme Court for Defective Service

On April 25, 2024 Zimmer Kunz attorney Aaron Weiss won the dismissal of a lawsuit before tthe Pennsylvania Supreme Court based on improper and untimely service. See Ferraro v. Patterson-Erie Corp., ___ A.3d ___, 2024 Pa. LEXIS 602 (Pa. 2024).

The case arose from a personal injury claim for an alleged slip and fall at a Burger King on August 26, 2018. Plaintiff failed to serve her Complaint timely or via the sheriff, as are required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. Justice Donahue authored the Majority Opinion. The Court clarified that a plaintiff’s burden is to demonstrate a good faith effort to comply with the rules of service and “diligently and timely serve process on the defendant”, as opposed to simply making a good faith effort to provide notice. Id. at *50 (emphasis in original).

In applying that standard to the case at issue, the Court found Plaintiff failed to meet that burden because “[o]ne effort of service of process prior to the date on which the statute of limitations would have expired and no further effort until over two months after the expiration date is the opposite of diligence in timely serving process on the defendant..” Id. at *53. Furthermore, the actions in this case were “not technical non-compliance . . . because there was never an intent to comply with the Rules.  We have never held that any notice to a defendant of a pending legal lawsuit is a substitute for service of process and we refuse to do so here.” Id. at *54 (emphasis in original). The court cautioned “[i]f attempts at service of process are optional for giving such notice, then no plaintiff would be required to rely on the service of process Rules to impart notice.” Id. at *55-56.

This new ruling will hopefully help future defendants in challenging defective service that was either served untimely or by means other than the sheriff, as required.