Motion to Quash Discovery in Pennsylvania

What Is a Motion to Quash Discovery?


“Discovery matters are within the discretion of the trial court and the appellate court employs an abuse of discretion standard of review.” (Luckett v. Blaine (2004) 850 A.2d 811, 818 citing Luszczynski v. Bradley (1999) 729 A.2d 83, 87.) “Because challenges to discovery orders do not raise factual questions but, rather, legal questions, our scope of review is plenary.” (Luckett v. Blaine (2004) 850 A.2d 811, 818 citing In re Hasay (1996) 546 Pa. 481, 486.)

General Information for Complaints and Motions

Motion to Quash for Failure to Post Bond

“[A] Court may grant a party's motion to quash due to the appealing party's failure to post a bond imposed by a valid bond order of a trial court pursuant to Section 1003-A(d) of the MPC.” (Sklaroff v. Twp. of Abington, No. 1442 C.D. 2011, at *16 [Pa. Cmmw. Ct. July 23, 2012] citing PPM Atlantic Renewable v. Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board (2011) 22 A.3d 253 [where appellant failed to appeal trial court's bond order, our Court granted applicant's motion to quash for failure to post the appeal bond]; Takacs v. Indian Lake Borough Zoning Hearing Board (2011) 18 A.3d 354, 356 [after determining that bond order was valid, this Court granted developer's motion to quash the appeal due to appellant's failure to post the appeal bond].)

Motions to Quash in the Zoning Context

“A decision to grant or deny a motion to quash by the trial court in a zoning matter is a question of law.” (Sklaroff v. Twp. of Abington, No. 1442 C.D. 2011, at *11 n.11 [Pa. Cmmw. Ct. July 23, 2012] citing Spahn v. Zoning Board of Adjustment (2007) 922 A.2d 24, 27 n.6.)

Standard of Review and Burdens of Proof

The standard of review for the denial of a motion to quash a subpoena is well-settled. “[T]he standard of review regarding a motion to quash a subpoena is whether the trial court abused its discretion. [For] questions of law, the Court's standard of review is de novo, and its scope of review is plenary.” (Branham v. Rohm & Haas Co. (2011) 19 A.3d 1094, 1102.)

“On review of a challenge to the disposition of a motion to quash a subpoena, [the] Court has stated:

‘[W]hether a subpoena shall be enforced rests in the judicial discretion of the court. [The reviewing court] will not disturb a discretionary ruling of a lower court unless the record demonstrates an abuse of the court's discretion. So long as there is evidence which supports the lower court's decision, it will be affirmed. [The reviewong] may not substitute [its] judgment of the evidence for that of the lower court.’”

(Branham v. Rohm & Haas Co. (2011) 19 A.3d 1094, 1103 quoting In re Subpoena , appeal granted in part, 553 Pa. 231, 718 A.2d 1245 (1998), [citations and internal quotation marks omitted].)

However, “[the] Court's standard of review of the trial court's order granting a motion to quash plaintiff's appeal is limited to whether the trial court committed an error of law, an abuse of discretion, or a violation of constitutional rights.” (Ray v. Brookville Area School Dist (2011) 19 A.3d 29, 31 n.3 citing Cadonic v. Northern Area Special Purpose Schools (1981) 57 Pa.Cmwlth. 42.)

Discovery Orders Not Immediately Appealable

“[M]ost discovery orders are deemed interlocutory and not immediately appealable because they do not dispose of the litigation.” (Veloric v. Doe (2015) 123 A.3d 781, 784.) Nevertheless, “[a]n appeal may be taken as of right from a collateral order of [a] ... lower court.” (Id., citing Pa.R.A.P. 313(a).)

“A collateral order is an order separable from and collateral to the main cause of action where the right involved is too important to be denied review and the question presented is such that if review is postponed until final judgment in the case, the claim will be irreparably lost.” (Ungurian v. Beyzman (2020) 232 A.3d 786, 794 n.10 citing Pa.R.A.P. 313(b).)

Meet and Confer Requirement

Within the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Courts may require compliance with local rules such as the following for Montgomery County Rule of Civil Procedure 208.2(e).

The local rule states, in relevant part:

“Any motion relating to discovery must include a certification by counsel for the moving party that counsel has conferred or attempted to confer with all interested parties in order to resolve the matter without court action. This certification language is included on the cover sheet of moving party required by Local Rule 208.3 (b). By checking the appropriate box on the cover sheet of the moving party, and signing the certification section of the cover sheet, counsel for the moving party will satisfy the certification requirement under this Rule.”

(Madlyn & Leonard Abramson Ctr. for Jewish Life v. Novitsky, J-A13024-17, at *14 [Pa. Super. Ct. Aug. 4, 2017] citing Montgomery County Rule of Civil Procedure 208.2(e).)

The Court’s Decision

“‘As a general rule, [an Appellate] Court will not provide interim supervision of discovery proceedings conducted in connection with litigation pending in the several trial courts. In the absence of unusual circumstances, we will not review discovery or sanction orders prior to a final judgment in the main action.’” (Spivack v. Berks Ridge Corp. Inc. (1990) 402 Pa. Super. 73, 80 quoting McManus v. Chubb Group of Insurance Companies (1985) 342 Pa. Super. 405, 410.)

“In reviewing the appealability of the Discovery Order, [a Court of Appeals will] first focus [their] attention on whether the Discovery Order is separable from the main cause of action.” (Winig v. Braverman, 2039 EDA 2020, at *1 [Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Nov. 5, 2021] citing generally Pa.R.A.P. 313.) “An order is separable from the main cause of action if it can be resolved without an analysis of the merits of the underlying dispute.” (Commonwealth v. Williams (2014) 86 A.3d 771, 781.) “Because ‘some interrelatedness with the main issue is tolerable,’ ... a court must assess whether an issue ‘is conceptually distinct from the primary cause of action.” (Winig v. Braverman, 2039 EDA 2020, at *1 citing Pridgen v. Parker Hannifin Corp. (2006) 905 A.2d 422, 433.)

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