In re A.B., 390 EDA 2022

CourtSuperior Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtMcCAFFERY, J.
PartiesIN RE: A.B., AN INCAPACITATED PERSON v. APPEAL OF: V.B.
Docket Number390 EDA 2022,J-A20009-22
Decision Date16 September 2022

IN RE: A.B., AN INCAPACITATED PERSON APPEAL OF: V.B.

No. 390 EDA 2022

No. J-A20009-22

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 16, 2022


NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION - SEE SUPERIOR COURT I.O.P. 65.37

Appeal from the Order Entered January 4, 2022 In the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County Orphans' Court Division at No(s): 2016-00009

BEFORE: STABILE, J., McCAFFERY, J., and PELLEGRINI, J. [*]

MEMORANDUM

McCAFFERY, J.

V.B. (Appellant) appeals from the orphans' court's January 4, 2022, order denying his petition for modification of the guardianship of his adult daughter, A.B. After careful review, we affirm.

The orphans' court summarized the facts and procedural history of this case, as follows:

This matter came before the [c]ourt on a Petition for Modification of Guardianship filed by [Appellant], father of [A.B.] (D.O.B. 2/8/98), the incapacitated person. [Appellant] filed the Petition pro se, although he was later represented by counsel at [the] time of the hearing. The Petition filed by [Appellant] purported to seek medical information on the incapacitated person, in order to determine what medical insurance selection he would make through his retirement benefits, which also cover the incapacitated person. A hearing was scheduled and took place on December 20, 2021. In attendance were [M.B.], the mother and sole guardian of the person and estate of [A.B.] [Appellant], and Hillary Madden, Esquire, the [c]ourt-appointed counsel for [A.B.]
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Both [M.B.] and [Appellant] were also represented by counsel at the hearing
Several hearings were held in the past regarding this guardianship. For reasons set forth in prior Opinions and Orders of record in this case, [M.B.] has served as the sole plenary guardian of the person and estate of [A.B]. The reasons were primarily due to the inability of [M.B.] and [Appellant] to agree on most matters, and A.B.'s desire to live primarily with [M.B]. At prior hearings, the testimony was that A.B. did not want [Appellant] going with her to medical appointments, or participating in medical treatment for certain issues that [a]ffect women. [M.B.] also expressed[,] at the prior hearings, her perception that [Appellant] had control issues with regard to her, A.B., and decisions [a]ffecting A.B., including medical decisions. A schedule was issued in prior orders for [Appellant] to have periods of visitation with [A.B.], but all personal decisions [a]ffecting [A.B.] were to be made by her guardian, [M.B]

Orphans' Ct. Op., 3/7/22, at 1-2.

On January 4, 2022, the court entered an order (dated January 3, 2022) denying Appellant's request for modification of the guardianship of A.B. to permit him access to A.B.'s medical records. On January 26, 2022, Appellant filed a "Motion to Enter Order of January 3, 2022 As A Final Order[,]" which the court granted that same day. On January 28, 2022, Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal of the January 4, 2022, order, as made final by the order entered January 26, 2022.

On March 8, 2022, this Court issued a Rule to Show Cause order, directing Appellant to show cause why the court's January 4, 2022, order was final and appealable. We reasoned:

The order of January 26, 2022 does not express a determination that an immediate appeal would facilitate resolution of the entire matter. Pa.R.A.P. 341(c) (stating trial court "may enter a final order as to one or more but fewer than all the claims
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and parties only upon express determination that an immediate appeal would facilitate resolution of the entire case").
A review of the docketing statement reveals that Appellant states this order is appealable under Pa.R.A.P. 342 (allowing appeals to be taken as of right from certain orders of the Orphan[s'] Court Division). Appellant, however, has not stated which subsection of Rule 342 would apply to this appeal.

Order, 3/8/22, at 1.

On March 17, 2022, Appellant filed a response to our Rule to Show Cause order, stating:

This appeal is taken pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 342(a)(5), "an Order determining the status of Fiduciaries, Beneficiaries or Creditors in an Estate, Trust or Guardianship." The comments to Rule 342 indicate Subdivisions (a)(1) to (7) list orders that are unique to Orphans' Court practice, but closely resemble final orders as defined in [Pa.R.A.P.] 341(b).[] The comments also state that Rule 341(a)(5) "resolves a conflict in prior appellate court decisions by stating definitively that an order removing or refusing to remove a fiduciary is an immediately appealable order."
This case does not involve the removal or refusing to remove a guardian, but it was a denial for the modification of a guardianship previously granted. As noted in the [orphans' c]ourt's Order of January [4], 2022, and the [orphans' c]ourt's subsequent Opinion pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) (of March 7, 2022), the issue of release of medical information of the incapacitated person and care the guardian has been providing has been raised before. There is a need to resolve this issue with finality so that the guardianship can continue properly and orderly.
With regard to Rule 341, entitled Final Orders; Generally, the Order of the [orphans' c]ourt disposed of the only claim before the [c]ourt and involved all parties, A.B., the incapacitated person; M.B., the guardian and mother of A.B.; and . . . Appellant, V.B., the father of A.B. The Order of this Court is correct that the Order of January 26, 2022, did not express a determination that an immediate appeal would facilitate resolution of the entire case, however under Rule 341(c), there were not more than one claim for relief sought. The [orphans' c]ourt was not entering an Order as to one or more, but fewer than all claims and parties. There was only one claim that involved the three parties. Appellant . . .
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alleges that under Rule 341(b)(1) the instant Order is a Final Order as it disposes of all claims and of all parties.

Appellant's Response, 3/17/22, at 2 (emphasis omitted). On March 28, 2022, we discharged the Rule to Show Cause Order and notified the parties that the issue may be addressed by the panel assigned to the merits of this appeal.

Appellant thereafter filed his brief with this Court, setting forth the following four issues for our review:

I. The [orphans'] court erred in its order of November 22, 2021, wherein it ordered [Appellant] and M.B. to appear, but ordered that the incapacitated person, A.B., need not attend. A.B., although incapacitated, appeared at a prior hearing on March 28, 2018, and upon examination by the court, A.B. stated that she wanted to decide matters for herself. She said nothing about not wanting her father to have any medical information. At the March [of] 2018[] hearing, it was M.B. who stated her daughter, A.B., was uncomfortable with a man discussing hygiene problems. M.B. does not give [Appellant] details of medical treatment concerning their daughter, A.B.
II. The [orphans'] court erred and abused its discretion in allowing hearsay testimony and comments by counsel for the incapacitated person regarding A.B.'s wishes that [Appellant] receive no medical information regarding his daughter, A.B.
III. The [orphans'] court erred in giving more weight to the expressed wishes of A.B., the incapacitated person[,] than to the best interest of the incapacitated person as required by 20 Pa.C.S.[] §[]5521(a).
IV. The lower court erred in not allowing [Appellant] to have a medical authorization to have access to his daughter['s], A.B.[], medical records so that he could see that she is getting the care that is needed. The failure to allow access to
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