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Pennsylvania Law Weekly News

Modern Workplaces Add Complexity to Workers' Comp Cases

By Lizzy McLellan |

A day at work isn't always just a day at the office. Attorneys in workers' compensation practice know that all too well. And as technological advances allow more workers to telecommute and correspond on work matters from outside of the office, the conditions surrounding compensable incidents are increasingly complicated.

For Wrongful-Birth Cases, Appeals May Be Just Beginning

By Lizzy McLellan |

When the state Supreme Court hears arguments in Sernovitz v. Dershaw, it will primarily address a procedural issue, but the court's decision will shape the fate of wrongful-birth and wrongful-life lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

construction

Subcontractor Could Be on Hook for Construction Death

By Lizzy McLellan |

After waiving its immunity under the Workers' Compensation Act, a masonry subcontractor may have to reimburse the general contractor for a $3.1 million settlement owed after the death of the subcontractor's own employee at the construction site, now that the state Superior Court has decided that parts of an indemnification contract are valid as clear agreements.

Unemployment Board to Eye Job Search Registration Excuses

By Max Mitchell |

The Commonwealth Court has left it up to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review to determine what circumstances can excuse claimants from the requirement to register for an employment search service offered by the state.

Superior Court Kicks Auto Case to Centre County

By Max Mitchell |

The state Superior Court is using the recent ruling in Bratic v. Rubendall to allow defendants to transfer a motor vehicle case from Philadelphia to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Oct. 28, 2014 - Erich J. Schock Named President of Board of Directors of The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties

Erich J. Schock of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba was named president of the board of directors of The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Bethlehem, Pa.

verdicts and settlements

State Settles MCARE Row Over Hundreds Of Millions in Funds

By Gina Passarella |

The state has settled five years of litigation with several health-care provider groups over a $100 million transfer of funds from MCARE to the general fund as well as the state's calculation of the annual assessments it charges doctors.

verdicts and settlements

Employer Did Not Discriminate in Firing Ex-Military Employee

By Lizzy McLellan |

A federal judge has decided that Gemalto Inc. does not have to pay more than $600,000 to a former employee who asserted claims that he was terminated because of his military service under the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Military Leave of Absence Act.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Oct. 20

By John L. Kennedy |

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

ACLU May Challenge Speech Restrictions on Criminal Offenders

By John L. Kennedy |

Andy Hoover, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the group is looking into a possible challenge to SB 508, signed last week by Gov. Tom Corbett, which allows crime victims or prosecutors to prevent certain conduct, including speech, by offenders.

Corbett Eyes Bill to Allow Municipal Gun Ordinance Challenges

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would allow any group or individual to challenge a local government gun ordinance stricter than state law, and recoup attorney fees, is before Gov. Tom Corbett.

Sam Stretton

Disqualification Rules for District Judges Have Changed

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Have the new district judge standards of conduct changed the disqualification requirements for district judges?

Daniel J. Siegel

PBA Ethics Committee Issues Social Media Guidance

By Daniel J. Siegel |

A man received an $80,000 confidential settlement for his age-discrimination claim against his former employer. However, he forfeited that settlement after his daughter posted on her Facebook page that "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT."

David Unkovic and Donna Kreiser

Anatomy of a Bond Issue: The Participants and the Steps

By Donna L. Kreiser and David Unkovic |

In recent years, the securities and tax regulations governing municipal bonds have grown increasingly complex. More so than ever before, it is important for the issuer to understand what it is getting into and what its responsibilities are when it undertakes a bond issue.

Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik

PUC Decision Suggests Pipeline Operator Has Public Utility Status

By Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik |

Landowners should be wary of the Oct. 24 decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission strengthening Sunoco Pipeline LP's claim as a public utility and possibly paving the way for other pipeline operators to perhaps invoke similar status.

Federal-State Split Forming Over MERS's Authority

By Max Mitchell |

A split between state and federal courts has begun to emerge over the authority of the mortgage registry company MERS, according to several attorneys who work in the field.

pa map

Harrisburg and Lancaster Firms Looking Up, Heading South

By Lizzy McLellan and Max Mitchell |

Business for law firms in Harrisburg and Lancaster has been improving at a steady pace, but an additional opportunity has presented itself for those willing to venture south.

Passenger Can Benefit From Driver's Full Tort Coverage

By Lizzy McLellan |

Thanks to a novel detail in state law, a passenger injured in a car accident is allowed to use the driver's full tort coverage, despite being an insured of her husband's limited tort policy.

gavel

Partition Case Reinstated Due to Immunity Question

By Max Mitchell |

The Commonwealth Court has reinstated a personal injury suit against a school because the record lacked sufficient information about how an accordian-style partition was secured to school property to justify the application of governmental immunity.

Justices Take Up Whether Juries Should Determine Biosolids Use

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether juries should be able to determine if spreading a fertilizer made from recycled sewage sludge, known as biosolids, constitutes a "normal agricultural practice."

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Oct. 21, 2014 - Stacey Willits McConnell Appointed to Board of Directors of Main Line Animal Rescue

Stacey Willits McConnell, partner at Lamb McErlane and chair of its trusts and estates department, was appointed to the board of directors of Main Line Animal Rescue (MLAR).

verdicts and settlements

Nursing Home Chain Settles False Claims Case

By Saranac Hale Spencer |

A nursing and rehabilitation facility chain is paying $38 million to settle claims that it defrauded Medicare and Medicaid programs by billing for substandard care in what the U.S. Department of Justice is calling the largest failure-of-care settlement with a chain of this type yet.

verdicts and settlements

Jail Failed to Treat Prisoner's Decaying Tooth

By Max Mitchell |

According to the pretrial memorandum of plaintiff Joseph W. Consonery Jr., he was incarcerated on Feb. 6, 2009, at the Washington County Correctional Facility. On that day, he told a nurse he had an infected tooth and he needed to see a dentist, the memo said. Days later, Consonery's tooth "snapped," which led to ongoing bleeding, the memo said.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Oct. 13

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Oct. 13. Members of the state House of Representatives were scheduled to return to session Oct. 20. Members of the state Senate are scheduled to return to session Nov. 12.

Corbett Eyes Bill to Close DUI Loophole

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would require a conviction for a first DUI offense before conviction and sentencing for a second offense is before Gov. Tom Corbett. The state House of Representatives attached the language to SB 1239.

Waterfront Buffer Changes Sent to Governor

By John L. Kennedy |

HB 1565, which would eliminate a mandatory 150-foot development buffer from streams and other waterways the Department of Environment Protection classifies as "high quality," is before Gov. Tom Corbett.

Senate Wants Economic Development Projects in Panel's Control

By John L. Kennedy |

The state Senate Appropriations Committee amended HB 2420, a debt ceiling reduction bill covering capital projects, to place final say over what projects are chosen with the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

Sam Stretton

The Judicial Discipline System Should Be Reconsidered

By Samuel C. Stretton |

After the Bruno decision, where does professional judicial discipline stand in Pennsylvania?

Sam Stretton

Pennsylvania Lawyers Should Be Cautious 
About Offering Legal Advice in Delaware

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it permissible for a Pennsylvania lawyer to represent people in Delaware if the lawyer has local counsel or an office with a Delaware lawyer in it?

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The Case That Could Disrupt a Century of Settled Law

By Steven Chadwick, Michael Joy and Robert Jochen |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the Superior Court decision in Shedden v. Anadarko E&P, 88 A.3d 228 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2014), and its decision will have far-reaching implications for the constantly evolving relationship between landowners and producers in the state.

Blaine A. Lucas

Pa. Supreme Ct. Clarifies Unnecessary Hardship Standard for Use Variances

By By Blaine A. Lucas and Alyssa E. Golfieri |

On July 21, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rendered a decision in Marshall v. City of Philadelphia, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 1785 (Pa. 2014), that clarified the unnecessary hardship standard applicable to the granting of a use variance.

David G. Mandelbaum

Can Natural Resource Damages Make Sense?

By David G. Mandelbaum |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's fractured decision in Robinson Township v. Public Utility Commission, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013), has refocused attention on the Environmental Rights Amendment, Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Steven Silver

States Could Soon Lean on Casinos for Overdue Child Support

By Steve Silver |

Since Pennsylvania's first casino opened its doors in 2006 at the Mohegan Sun in Wilkes-Barre, the state has relied on casinos for property tax relief, job creation and subsidies for the horse-racing industry.

James M. Beck

Preserving Futile Arguments for Appeal

By James M. Beck |

Preservation of key issues and its flip side—waiver—are major items on all appellate counsel's checklist. In Pennsylvania, ever since Dilliplaine v. Lehigh Valley Trust, 457 Pa. 255, 322 A.2d 114 (1974), abolished the "plain error" doctrine in civil litigation, appellate courts have increased the importance of waiver as an appellate issue.

Courts Weigh in on the Protection of Software Code

By J. Alexander Hershey |

Two substantial decisions rendered in 2014 have provided additional context to the protection of computer software under existing intellectual property law. It is a common complaint that existing intellectual property principles apply poorly to new technologies like software. In fact, the degree of protection available for software code and the ideas underlying its nature or function remains somewhat unresolved.

gavel

$80M Indemnification Case Argued Before Pa. Justices

By Max Mitchell |

Two insurance companies' failure to consider negotiating a settlement in the face of a potential billion-dollar loss on behalf of an insured should be sufficient justification for the insured to settle its claims for $80 million without the consent of the carriers, an attorney representing Babcock & Wilcox argued last week before the state Supreme Court.

Insurance Carrier Argues for Broad Leeway to Subrogate

By Max Mitchell |

An insurance carrier should not be left unable to pursue litigation against a third-party tortfeasor if an injured party does not want to file suit, an attorney argued last Wednesday before the state Supreme Court in Pittsburgh.

insurance policy

Parties Argue Over Court's Discretion to Interpret Policy Terms

By Max Mitchell |

Counsel for two restaurant owners told the state Supreme Court in Pittsburgh last week that a nearly 50-year-old case dealing with the definition of an insured in anomnibusinsurance policy's employer liability exemption is being applied too broadly, and the courts should have the discretion to interpret the precise language of the insurance policy at issue.

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Asbestos Lawsuit Tossed for Lack of Causation Evidence

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

Although evidence suggested that a woman's husband may have been exposed to asbestos, it did not prove that the possible exposure was the cause of her mesothelioma, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Court OKs Horizontal Drilling for Oil, Gas Under Game Land

By Max Mitchell |

A 1920s land deed reserving oil and gas rights on state game lands by using "ordinary means now in use" will not bar an energy company from accessing those resources by horizontal drilling from an adjacent property, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Oct. 14, 2014 - Julie A. Uebler Elected Chair of Board of Directors of Women's Way

Employment law attorney Julie A. Uebler of Uebler Law LLC was elected chair of the board of directors of Women's Way for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

verdicts and settlements

Family Dispute Leads to Attack With Broken Glass

On March 8, 2012, plaintiff Daniel Contreras IV, 20, was contacted by his sister, Veronica DeJesus, regarding a family dispute outside their grandmother's beauty salon, located in the 3300 block of north Front Street in North Philadelphia.

verdicts and settlements

Intersection Collision Leads to Shoulder Injury

On April 20, 2012, plaintiff Harriet Greenberg, 66, was driving a 2003 BMW sedan through an intersection at a shopping center at 1657 The Fairway, in Jenkintown, Pa. As she proceeded through the intersection, the front driver's side of her car was struck by the front of a Nissan Maxima driven by Katherine Stoever. Greenberg claimed that she suffered an injury to her left shoulder.

Legislative Action for Week of Oct. 6

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative action for the week of Oct. 6. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session Oct. 14.

Drug Database Wouldn't Have Search Warrant Provision

By John L. Kennedy |

The state House of Representatives is poised to approve SB 1180—which would establish a pharmaceutical database to prevent "doctor shopping"—without language supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, and some members on both sides of the aisle, that would require a search warrant to gain access to the database.

Gubernatorial Candidates Get Feisty in Second Debate

By Marc Levy |

A lively second debate between Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf became tense Wednesday as Wolf sought to assign blame to Corbett for budget deficits and struggling schools while Corbett tried to frame Wolf as the candidate who will favor labor unions over taxpayers.

Sam Stretton

Sting Operations to Catch Judicial Misconduct Raise Concerns

By Samuel C. Stretton |

As a lawyer who practices in Philadelphia, I am concerned about the recent resignation of a Municipal Court judge and transfer of assignment of others. Was this done ethically?

Craig Robinson

Repairing Our Imperfect Tort System

By Craig Robinson |

In the summer of 2004, while studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain, I received a puzzled look from my host padre, Joaquin, when I inquired about the tort system in Spain. After having interned at a personal injury law firm in Philadelphia the previous summer, I was curious about how the Spanish tort system operated.

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Collateral Estoppel Doctrine Precludes Additional UIM Recovery

By Daniel E. Cummins |

Spurred by a number of state and federal court decisions over the past year, the issue of whether a previous award secured by an injured plaintiff can serve to preclude the plaintiff from seeking additional coverage from an underinsured motorist carrier on the same claims has become a hot topic in post-Koken auto accident litigation.

Using Documents to Prepare a Rule 30(b)(6) Witness

By Shannon McClure and Regina Nelson |

When representing a corporation or other organizational entity in federal court, it is not uncommon to be presented with a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) deposition request. There are many issues to consider when presented with this type of deposition notice.

Multimillion-Dollar Insurance Cases Top Justices' Docket

By Max Mitchell |

Two multimillion-dollar insurance cases are expected to highlight the state Supreme Court's oral argument session set to kick off Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

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Retroactive Tax Exemption Violates Separation of Powers

By Max Mitchell |

Reaffirming that the General Assembly cannot make laws explicitly to overturn court rulings, the state Supreme Court has determined that a portion of a law granting retroactive tax exemptions to charter schools that appealed their prior tax assessments violated the separation of powers doctrine.

gavel

Putative Class Claims Against Oil and Gas Lease Broker Rejected

By Gina Passarella |

A proposed class of landowners who sued an oil and gas lease pooling company could not show how a transaction fee the company charged was improper, how the company engaged in the unauthorized practice of law or how the assignment of lease rights was a regulated security, the state Superior Court ruled in upholding the dismissal of the case.

State Law Bars Eminent Domain for Private Enterprise

By Max Mitchell |

State law aimed at curbing eminent domain abuse prevents a water authority from condemning land for the purpose of building a water and sewer facility that would be used by a private developer for a residential subdivision, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

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DEP May Interpret Definition of 'Accident' in Mine Safety Act

By Max Mitchell |

The state Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to interpret the definition of "accident" under the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Act and to issue violations if those accidents are not properly reported, the state Supreme Court has ruled.