TITLE OF ARTICLE :
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT DEFINES PLAINTIFFS’ AFFIRMATIVE DUTY TO TIMELY EFFECTUATE SERVICE OF PROCESS
AUTHOR(S) OF ARTICLE: Lynn E. Roberts III
On March 25, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a landmark 4-3 decision that clarifies plaintiffs’ obligations to effectuate original service of process or risk having the case dismissed, Gussom v. Teagle, 2021 WL 1134548 (Pa. March 25, 2021) (Maj. Op. by Baer, J.) (Wecht, J., Dissenting).
In Pennsylvania, suit may be initiated by filing a Complaint or a Writ of Summons, which frequently is done in order to toll the statute of limitations. In 1976, the PA Supreme Court in Lamp v. Heyman, 366 A. 2d 882 (Pa. 1976) sought to end certain abuses by plaintiffs who tolled the statute of limitations by issuing and reissuing a Writ or reinstating a Complaint without serving or notifying the defendant. The Lamp Rule permits a writ of summons or complaint to remain effective only if the plaintiff refrains from a course of conduct that serves to stall in its tracks the legal machinery set in motion. The burden was placed on the plaintiff to show good-faith efforts to effectuate service of process. Unfortunately, Lamp led to inconsistent rulings by the lower courts.