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Bouchard v. Lambie

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

January 3, 2018

ANN ELISE BOUCHARD Defendant-Below, Appellant,
v.
KENNETH LAMBIE Plaintiff-Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: December 8, 2017

          Kasey H. DeSantis, Esquire, Vincent J. Poppiti, Esquire Attorney for Defendant-Below/Appellant

          Kenneth Lambie Plaintiff-Below/Appellee

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ON APPELLEE'S MOTION TO DISMISS

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff-Below/Appellee Kenneth Lambie's ("Mr. Lambie" or "Appellee") Motion to Dismiss the Notice of Appeal of Defendant-Below/Appellant Ann Elise Bouchard ("Ms. Bouchard" or "Appellant"). Mr. Lambie alleges that Appellant's Notice of Appeal violates Court of Common Pleas Civil Rule 72.3(f), the Mirror Image Rule.

         On December 8, 2017, the Court held a hearing on the motion and reserved its decision. This is the Final Decision of the Court on Appellee's Motion to Dismiss.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 6, 2017, Mr. Lambie and Nicholas Cocco ("Mr. Cocco") filed a Complaint in Justice of the Peace Court 13 (the "JP Court") against Appellant for trespass and property damage. In the Complaint below, Mr. Lambie and Mr. Cocco alleged that Appellant's dog attacked their dog and caused injuries that required surgery. Appellant alleged that Mr. Lambie's dog provoked Appellant's dog, which led Appellant's dog to attack Mr. Lambie's.

         On September 29, 2017, the JP Court held trial. On October 11, 2017, the court issued an Order that dismissed Mr. Cocco from the action with prejudice because he was not the owner of the dog and therefore is not entitled to damages. The court found for Mr. Lambie and awarded judgment in the amount of $786.45, plus costs and interests.

         On October 12, 2017, Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal in this Court, naming only Mr. Lambie as the Appellee. On November 11, 2017, Appellee filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, alleging Appellant's Notice of Appeal violates the mirror image rule. On November 22, 2017, Appellant filed an Opposition to Appellee's Motion to Dismiss.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Appellee contends that Appellant's Notice of Appeal violates the mirror image rule because it does not name all parties that were before the court below and, thus, should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

         Appellant asserts that the action should not be dismissed. First, Appellant argues that the mirror image has been satisfied because Mr. Cocco is not a proper party to the action since he has no ownership interest in Appellee's dog. Because Mr. Cocco was not a proper party in the JP Court, he cannot become one in an appeal before this Court. Thus, Appellant argues that the mirror image rule has been satisfied by naming Ms. Bouchard as appellant, and Mr. Lambie as appellee. Second, Appellant argues that even if the Court were to determine that the mirror image rule was not met, under the facts of the case the flaw is not fatal. Mr. Cocco's omission as a party in the case caption presents no prejudice to Appellee because Mr. Cocco has no legal interest in Appellee's dog. Further, Appellant argues that if the Court would require Mr. Cocco to be a named party in the appeal, all that would be required is for Appellee to serve Mr. Cocco with a copy of Appellant's Notice of Appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         Court of Common Pleas Civil Rule 72.3(f) codifies the common law "mirror image rule" and provides that "[a]n appeal to this court that fails to join the identical parties and raise the same issues that were before the court below shall result in a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds."[1] The mirror image rule protects the parties' right to a fair hearing of all matters heard below and "to assure the de novo reviewing court that all relevant issues that could be presented can be heard."[2] If a party fails to comply with the mirror image rule, this Court is precluded from exercising subject ...


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