Pennsylvania Law Weekly News


Commonwealth Court Reinforces Sale Notice Requirements

By Lizzy McLellan |

Pennsylvania's taxing authorities and bureaus are held to strict rules when it comes to notice of tax sales, and the Commonwealth Court has cracked down on some authorities in recent cases.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Justices to Hear Kane's Challenge to 'Special Prosecutor'

By Max Mitchell |

As part of her challenge to a potential prosecution on perjury charges in connection with allegedly leaking grand jury secrets, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane questioned the authority of judges to appoint special prosecutors.

Arbitrator Conflict of Interest Not Appealable After Result

By Lizzy McLellan |

A challenge to an arbitrator's partiality is waived if it is not raised during the arbitration proceedings, a split en banc panel of the Superior Court has ruled, though the court did not specifically rule on the merits of that challenge.

Quitting Over Loss of Transport a Disqualifier for Benefits

By Lizzy McLellan |

A worker cannot collect unemployment compensation after terminating employment when the reason for quitting is a loss of employer-provided transportation, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Wal-Mart Loses Bid to Keep Slip-and-Fall Case in Federal Court

By Gina Passarella |

Wal-Mart's internal investigation of injuries sustained by a patron of one of its Pennsylvania stores is not enough to prove the patron's damages claim exceeded the $75,000 threshold required to get the case into federal court.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Jan. 27, 2015 - Don Geiter Selected as Leader for Barley Snyder Group

Don Geiter was selected as the practice group leader for Barley Snyder's finance and creditors' rights group.

verdicts and settlements

Girl Scout Settles With Susquehanna Camp

By Max Mitchell |

A Girl Scout who allegedly sustained a traumatic brain injury after falling off a rock formation during an outing has settled for nearly $3 million with the Susquehanna County camp where the fall occurred.

verdicts and settlements

Contractor Entitled to Mechanic's Lien

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Lycoming County judge has decided that Linde Corp., a contracting company, is entitled to a mechanic's lien of more than $216,000 for work it performed on a water withdrawal facility, despite the defendants' claim that the owner of the property did not approve the work.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Jan. 19

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Jan. 19. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Jan. 26.

Senate Panel OKs Bills Aimed at Protecting Lessors of Gas Land

By John L. Kennedy |

In the first action of the new legislative session, the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee approved three bills, with no negative votes, that would protect landowners leasing property to natural gas drillers.

Public Pension Reform Legislation to Be Reintroduced

By John L. Kennedy |

State Rep. Warren Kampf, R-Montgomery, announced he will reintroduce legislation in the state House of Representatives to reform the pension systems for the state workers and public school teachers.

Sam Stretton

All Lawyers Should Establish IOLTA and Escrow Accounts

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a practicing lawyer, do I have to have an IOLTA/escrow account if I never receive clients' funds?


A Practical Defense Perspective on the 'Tincher' Ruling

By Bill Ricci |

On Nov. 19, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Tincher v. Omega Flex, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 3031, significantly changing the landscape of the state's products liability law by adopting a new design-defect test for strict products liability cases and unanimously overruling Azzarello v. Black Brothers, 391 A.2d 1020 (Pa. 1978).

Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder

Retaliatory Discharge Following a Workers' Comp Claim

By Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder |

Injured workers are faced with many unavoidable challenges when they become totally disabled as a result of a work injury. After missing significant time from work without any source of income, disabled workers and their families struggle to simply make ends meet.


Earning Capacity and Its Impact on Support

By Carolyn R. Mirabile |

The Pennsylvania support statute defines earning capacity and outlines the factors a court must consider in applying earning capacity. There are also hundreds of cases in Pennsylvania that discuss earning capacity. But what does it really mean and what is its effect on the final support order?

Citing Tincher, Lackawanna Judge Upholds $5.9M Verdict

By Lizzy McLellan |

In denying a post-trial motion from defendant Ford Motor Co., the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas not only upheld a $5.9 million verdict, but also seized the first known opportunity at the trial court level to apply and clarify precedent from Tincher v. Omega Flex, a recent Supreme Court decision that cleared the decks for products liability case law.

In this file photo, Mumia Abu-Jamal, right,  arrives in court for a 1995 hearing.

Law Curbing Felon's Speech Could Have Broad Impact, Foes Say

By Max Mitchell |

A new law aimed at curbing what some view as the offensive speech of convicted felons could have wide-ranging effects far outside prison walls.

Superior Court Vacates Medical Guardian Appointment

By Lizzy McLellan |

Only a child's parent, legal custodian or the juvenile court may make medical decisions for a dependent child, the Superior Court has ruled in rejecting a decision to appoint a child welfare advocacy organization as a medical guardian.

Lawyer Denied Fees From Ex-Client's Settlement

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Commonwealth Court has ruled that a workers' compensation claimant's former attorney should not be awarded fees for a settlement reached after the claimant discharged that attorney.

Judge Says Jury Should Decide if Feces Fits Animal Exclusion

By Max Mitchell |

Determinations about whether feces and urine that caused nearly $60,000 in damage to a rental property fall under an insurance policy's domestic animal exclusion should be left in the hands of the jury, a Lawrence County judge has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Jan. 21, 2015 - Attorney Named to Disabilities Board

Michael Mixell of Barley Snyder was elected to serve a two-year term on the board of directors for Prospectus Berco, an organization dedicated to inspiring people with disabilities or other special needs to lead meaningful lives by providing innovative services that promote dignity and respect.

verdicts and settlements

Son to be Repaid for Sale of Bequeathed Rental Home

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Delaware County judge has decided that the adult son of a woman who died in 2011 should be compensated for the sale of one of her properties, since that property was devised to him in her will.

verdicts and settlements

Driver Settles With Deliveryman After Intersection Crash

On June 2, 2013, plaintiff Mahmoud Ahmad, 25, a pizza deliveryman, was driving an Acura TL sedan on Lycoming Street toward the intersection with K Street, in Northeast Philadelphia.On June 2, 2013, plaintiff Mahmoud Ahmad, 25, a pizza deliveryman, was driving an Acura TL sedan on Lycoming Street toward the intersection with K Street, in Northeast Philadelphia. Ahmad claimed that he stopped at a four-way stop sign, then drove into the intersection. As he did so, the driver's side of his car was struck by a Nissan Maxima driven by Mohammed Abuawada, who was traveling on K Street. Ahmad maintained that Abuawada struck his car at 80 to 85 mph. Ahmad suffered a fracture to his left clavicle, which he claimed was a serious impairment of a bodily function.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Jan. 12, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Jan. 12. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Jan. 20.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Bill Would Eliminate Crimes Code Carve-out in Labor Disputes

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that died with the end of last session that would strike a carve-out in the Crimes Code for certain activities during labor disputes will be re-introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York.

James W. Cushing

Pa. Justices Clarify Evidentiary Standard for Child Abuse Registry

By James W. Cushing |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court weighed in on the burden of proof required to place someone onto the statewide ChildLine Registry in the matter of G.V. v. Department of Public Welfare, et al., 91 A.3d 667 (2014).

Timothy J. Horstmann and Adam L. Santucci

Small Borough's Big Lease Provides Lessons for Others

By Timothy J. Horstmann and Adam L. Santucci |

On Dec. 30, 2014, the borough of Middletown in Dauphin County closed on a 50-year lease of its water and sewer system. Pursuant to this public-private partnership, United Water will operate, maintain and manage the system, but Middletown will retain ownership of the assets even after the contract term.

Randall Schauer

The NLRB Gives Organized Labor a New Year's Resolution

By Randall C. Schauer |

On Dec. 9, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board, in a decision referred to as Purple Communications, rejected a prior ruling and held that workers may use an employer's email system for nonbusiness purposes during nonwork time.

Samuel Stretton

Client Waivers Are Best Done in Writing

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Two separate clients of mine have a conflict. Both have orally consented to waive their consent to any conflict. I sent one a written consent waiver and the client has not signed it. Can I rely on the client's oral consent?

Supreme Court Splits on Privacy and Authentication Tech Issues

By Lizzy McLellan and Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court finished out 2014 by dividing deeply on a pair of criminal cases that saw the court continue to wrestle with issues of technology and evidence.


Justices Strike Juvenile Sex Offender Registration Mandate

By Lizzy McLellan |

Juveniles are different from adults. That was the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling that requiring juvenile sex offenders to register violates the state constitution.

insurance policy

Injured Party Can File Counterclaim Against Insurer

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas has ruled that an injured party can bring a declaratory judgment claim against an insurer directly—if the insurer has already named that party as a defendant in its own claim.

Pa. Justices Take Up Invalid Peer Review as Attorney Fee Shield

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case over whether an insurance carrier's reliance on a peer review's recommendation to deny claims shields the carrier from liability for attorney fees if the peer review is found to have been invalid.

Officer's Testimony Not Allowed Under Hearsay Exceptions

By Lizzy McLellan |

A police officer's testimony about a driver's statements following a car accident was not covered by a hearsay exception and was therefore inadmissible at trial, the Superior Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Jan. 13, 2014 - Kent Herman Reelected Chair of Lehigh Valley Planning Commission

King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul attorney Kent Herman was reelected chair of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission for 2015.

verdicts and settlements

Agreement Reached On Conditions for Mentally Ill Inmates

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Department of Corrections has agreed to reform its conditions for inmates who suffer from mental illness.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff's Leg Was Fractured in Multi-Vehicle Collision

On Oct. 1, 2010, plaintiff Shawn Garnett, 19, a retail employee, was a passenger in a 2003 Ford Explorer traveling on New Falls Road in Middletown Township. The driver, Meagan Peterson, lost control, crossed the center line, and struck two other vehicles head-on. Garnett, who was in the rear seat behind the driver, claimed he suffered a fractured left femur.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Jan. 5

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Jan. 5. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to voting session on Jan. 20.

To Work, New Political Lineup Will Require Compromise, Observers Say

By John L. Kennedy |

The two-year General Assembly session began with swearing-in ceremonies in Harrisburg on Jan. 6. Observers say the new session might be one of the most politically dynamic ever.

Legislature Not Likely to Pass Bills Before Wolf Takes Office

By John L. Kennedy |

The prospect of the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature reconvening its new session before Democrat Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office has diminished.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Share Fees With Nonprofits

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I represented a nonprofit that referred a client to me. I received a substantial award for the client. May I give half of my legal fee to the nonprofit?

Matthew T. Mangino

One More Shot for Those With Juvenile Life Sentences

By Matthew T. Mangino |

In Pennsylvania, more than 400 inmates serving life without the possibility of parole for homicides committed as juveniles will get one more shot at the possibility of getting out of prison.

David G. Mandelbaum

A Review of 2014 Environmental Cases in Pa.'s Appellate Courts

By David G. Mandelbaum |

The Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts decided a few dozen cases with environmental dimensions last year. This review touches on most of them.

Jessica L. Mazzeo

Why Your Small Firm Needs a Media Relations Professional

By Jessica L. Mazzeo |

As small and diverse firms see rising competition from majority firms that are now willing to take on modest matters or less profit in order to get a higher volume of assignments, it is even more important to market effectively and promote the small firm's capabilities to continue to remain competitive.

Wal-Mart Decision Illuminates State-Federal Class Action Rift

By Max Mitchell |

While the state Supreme Court's recent decision in Braun v. Wal-Mart might mean a payout of more than $150 million for the class of employees claiming the retail giant shorted them on work breaks, according to some attorneys who spoke with the Law Weekly, the decision definitely means a division is brewing between state and federal courts regarding class actions.

Police Owe No Duty to Unknown Passengers in Fleeing Car

By Lizzy McLellan |

Local police owe no duty of care to passengers in fleeing vehicles whose existence or relationship to the driver is unknown to a pursuing officer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled.

Judge Allows Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Lawrence County judge has said that a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress may move forward against Jameson Memorial Hospital and one of its doctors, despite the defendants' argument that the claim has not been recognized by the state Supreme Court.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Jan. 6, 2014 - Alison Lecker Joined Warren Environmental Counsel

Alison Lecker joined Warren Environmental Counsel, an environmental and water resources law practice with offices in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

verdicts and settlements

Insurance Broker Settles Contract Dispute

By Max Mitchell |

An insurance brokerage has settled claims stemming from a former employee's departure from the firm to join another brokerage.

verdicts and settlements

Settlement for OAG In Furniture Fraud Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General has come to a settlement agreement with the officers of two companies that were allegedly selling furniture without fulfilling orders or giving refunds.

Executive and Judiciary Action for Week of Dec. 29

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and judiciary action for the week of Dec. 29, 2014. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to Harrisburg today for swearing in for the 2015-16 session.