Pa. R.C.P. 126 Interpretation
Pa. R.C.P. No. 126 (Rule 126) provides:
The rules shall be liberally construed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action or proceeding to which they are applicable. the court at every stage of any such action or proceeding may disregard any error or defect of procedure which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties.
In Pomerantz v. Goldstein, 479 Pa. 175, 387 A.2d 1280 (1978), the losing party filed a motion for a new trial instead of filing exceptions pursuant to the rules of procedure.
The prevailing party filed a motion to dismiss.
The movant responded that, but for the title on his pleading, he complied with the rules of procedure.
The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, and our superior court affirmed.
However, our supreme court reversed under Rule 126 because the motion for a new trial contained exceptions and because the motion was filed within the timeframe for exceptions.
Pomerantz is an example of the proper application of Rule 126
In Womer v. Hilliker, 589 Pa. 256, 908 A.2d 269 (2006), our supreme court explained the rationale for Rule 126:
It is self-evident that our Rules of Civil Procedure are essential to the orderly administration and efficient functioning of the courts. Accordingly, we expect that litigants will adhere to procedural rules as they are written, and take a dim view of litigants who flout them. That said, we have always understood that procedural rules are not ends in themselves, and that the rigid application of our rules does not always serve the interests of fairness and justice.
It is for this reason that we adopted Rule 126, which provides in pertinent part that "the court at every stage of any such action or proceeding may disregard any error or defect of procedure which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties." With this language, we incorporated equitable considerations in the form of a doctrine of substantial compliance into Rule 126, giving the trial courts the latitude to overlook any "procedural defect" that does not prejudice a party's rights.
Thus, while we look for full compliance with the terms of our rules, we provide a limited exception under Rule 126 to those who commit a misstep when attempting to do what any particular rule requires.
Moreover, we made Rule 126 a rule of universal application, such that the trial court may disregard any such procedural defect or error at every stage of any action or proceeding to which the civil procedural rules apply. Id. at 267-68, 908 A.2d at 276.