Special to the Legal
The matter of DeLage Landen Financial Services v. Rovner Allen, 85 Bucks Co. L. Rep. 983 (2012), reminds practitioners to be vigilant in protecting their clients’ appeal rights at the conclusion of trials.
In DeLage, the defendant, Rovner Allen, lost at trial and immediately appealed directly to the Pennsylvania Superior Court without filing any post-trial motions. The court ruled that a party that wishes to appeal an adverse decision must file post-trial motions in order to preserve the issues the party wishes to raise on appeal, otherwise the issues are waived. Indeed, the court indicated that failing to file a post-trial motion is fatal to an appeal and a mandatory prerequisite to filing an appeal.
The DeLage court’s decision was based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Chalkey v. Roush, 569 Pa. 462 (2002). The fact pattern in Chalkey is remarkably similar to DeLage in terms of the issues addressed in this article. In Chalkey, the court ruled that after a verdict is reached by either a judge or jury in either a matter of equity or law, Pa.R.C.P. 227.1 requires all issues to be potentially raised on appeal to be preserved in post-trial motions or they are otherwise waived. Indeed, Pa.R.C.P. 227.1 is consistent with the also applicable Pa.R.A.P. Rule 302(a), which lays out the general rule that “issues not raised in the lower court are waived and cannot be raised for the first time on appeal.” One way to raise an issue in the lower court is through the filing of a post-trial motion.
An interesting tidbit in the Chalkey matter is that the trial court judge, sitting in equity, did not enter a decree nisi pursuant to Pa.R.C.P.. 1517(a) (which was rescinded in 2003), which gave the appellant the impression that a post-trial motion was not required. Further, before the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court relied upon Pa.R.C.P. 1517 and 1518, both of which deal directly with appealing matters of equity. Unfortunately, while both of the aforementioned rules were rescinded (Rule 1517 in 2004 and 1518 in 1984) and replaced by Pa.R.C.P. 227.1, the Supreme Court noted that confusion had arisen as there was little to no guidance from the court as to whether the cases decided under the aforesaid rescinded rules had been abrogated. Therefore, the Chalkey court made it abundantly clear and definitively ruled that there is “no excuse for a party’s failure to file post-trial motions,” period, regardless of whether the trial was heard by a judge or jury in either a matter of equity or law; they must be filed in order to have any issues preserved for appeal.
So, let the above cases serve as a valuable reminder to practitioners that in order to preserve any and all issues one wishes to argue on appeal after a trial, post-trial motions must be filed within 10 days of the trial verdict/decision one wishes to appeal.