Commonwealth Court Issues Double Win for Authorities
In a precedential opinion issued on December 7, 2017, the Commonwealth Court handed municipal authorities two important victories when dealing with customers who refuse to pay their assessments. In Warwick Township Water and Sewer Authority v. Warwick Realty Co., L.P., — A.3d — (2017), 2017 WL 6043644, the Court ruled that “it is the property owner, as the defendant in a scire facias proceeding, who bears the burden of overcoming the municipality’s’ prima facie case by presenting sufficient evidence that the claims are erroneous.” It is the first time in nearly 30 years that the Court has addressed the issue of the burden of proof in a published opinion, providing clarity for authority and customers alike when litigating authority liens. Further, the Warwick Court made it clear that authorities are entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees when successfully enforcing a lien, further clarifying the Court’s recent move towards requiring such fees to be awarded.
Rudolph Clarke’s Founding Partner, Edward Rudolph, represents the Warwick Township Water and Sewer Authority, and Partner Peter Amuso handled the litigation for the Authority. Peter argued the Authority’s appeal before the Court. “Authorities across the Commonwealth provide clean water to citizens efficiently,” said Amuso. “In order to do so, they rely on the fees allowed under Pennsylvania law, and today’s decision goes a long way to ensuring that ratepayers pay for the services authorities provide. Authorities who follow the rules under the Municipal Claims Act can now expect to be made whole when enforcing their liens.”