Pennsylvania Law Weekly News

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Raising Pa. Supreme Court Output Easier Said Than Done?

By Lizzy McLellan |

Despite the wide field of candidates running for the state Supreme Court, some common themes have emerged, including wanting the court to hear more cases and issue more opinions, a campaign promise observers said could be hard to deliver.

Hand of businessman with a pen. Finance and accounting business background.

Small and Midsize Pa. Firms See No Litigation Lag

By Max Mitchell |

Although some large firms have reported a lag in litigation, and even some talk of layoffs, several midsize and smaller Pennsylvania firms are seeing an uptick.

Plaintiff's Lawyer Barred from Defense's Medical Exam

By Max Mitchell |

A plaintiff's attorney is not allowed to be present during neuropsychological testing of his or her client, a Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas judge has ruled.

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Arbitrator Exceeded Authority on Officer Pay Grievance

By Lizzy McLellan |

A grievance arbitrator acted outside his jurisdiction and authority when he crafted an award requiring higher pay for on-duty police officers working large-scale events, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Building Owner's Appeal May Continue Despite Abatement

By Lizzy McLellan |

Getting a tax exemption for property improvements under the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act does not render moot any previous appeals to tax assessments of that property following those upgrades, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - March 31, 2015 - Sargent Appointed to CCHS Board of Trustees

James Sargent of Lamb McErlane was appointed to the Chester County Historical Society's (CCHS) board of trustees.

verdicts and settlements

Janssen Prevails in Second Phila. Risperdal Trial

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

The jury in the second Risperdal mass-tort case in Philadelphia, while finding that Janssen Pharmaceuticals failed to warn about the risk of male breast growth from the drug, determined that the drug did not cause the plaintiff's gynecomastia.

verdicts and settlements

Carpenter Secures Settlement in Forklift Incident

By Lizzy McLellan |

A union carpenter who was injured on the job reached settlement with the heating and air conditioning subcontractor whose employee allegedly struck the plaintiff with a forklift.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of March 23

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of March 23. Members of the state House of Representatives were set to return to session March 30; Senate members are set to return April 13.

Wolf's State Police Commissioner Nominee Encounters Controversy

By John L. Kennedy |

Marcus Brown, Gov. Tom Wolf's nominee for Pennsylvania State Police commissioner, might wish by now he had stayed in Maryland. The latest in Brown's controversial nomination is a letter he reportedly received that read: "No [racial epithet] lover will wear my uniform."

State Lawmakers Buried in Public Pension Crisis

By John L. Kennedy |

The city of York's accumulated $10 million pension payments, added on to this year's obligation, would take a 25 percent bite out of the city's entire budget, according to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Sam Stretton

Taking Shares in a Client's Business Is Ill Advised

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for a lawyer to take a share of stock in a corporation he is forming for his client, in lieu of a fee, if the client is cash poor, assuming the lawyer gives proper warning to the client to get independent counsel?

Kenneth Racowski

No Consensus on Application of 'Comcast v. Behrend'

By Kenneth L. Racowski |

It has been two years this month since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Comcast v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013), reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's class certification of antitrust claims brought by more than 2 million cable subscribers.

David G. Mandelbaum

The Budget, New Regulations and the Fear of Fracking

By David G. Mandelbaum |

The first 10 days of March were interesting for those who attempt to divine regulatory priorities or enforcement strategies from environmental policy pronouncements.

The Social Security Disability Program Is Senselessly Under Attack

By Thomas J. Giordano Jr. |

What if I told you that you have a disability fund you have been paying for since the day you started working and paying taxes?

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks after he took the oath of office to become the 47th governor of Pennsylvania, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Wolf's Early Days Spotlight Powers, Authority of Office

By Lizzy McLellan |

In his first two months as Pennsylvania's chief executive, Gov. Tom Wolf has seemed unafraid to make waves, and the resulting legal battles may dramatically affect the power of the governor's office.

Justices Mull Uniformity in Mechanic's Lien Procedure

By Max Mitchell |

Not allowing mechanic's liens and actions to compel judgment on those liens to be filed under the same case caption and number is a trap for the unwary, an attorney representing a demolition company argued before the state Supreme Court.

Parent in Wrongful-Death Case Barred From Nonmoney Damages

By Lizzy McLellan |

A parent bringing a wrongful-death and survival action over a child's death may not recover nonpecuniary damages because of the Sovereign Immunity Act, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

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Justices Agree to Consider Amendment of Case Caption

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to take up an issue of first impression over the amendment of a case caption, substituting a bankruptcy trustee as the plaintiff in an action brought by the entity in bankruptcy.

Pa. Supreme Court Denies Allocatur in Rollover Case

By Max Mitchell |

After an allocatur denial by the state Supreme Court, a suit against a car dealership involving a vehicle rollover will be reinstated.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - March 24, 2015 - Clifford Appointed to Pa. Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee

Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby attorney Dan Clifford was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee.

verdicts and settlements

Lawyer Ordered to Repay Millions for Diverting Assets

By Gina Passarella |

A federal judge ordered a suspended Bridgeport attorney and his law firm to pay $18.4 million in restitution for his alleged misuse of millions of dollars in funds from several employee-benefit plans.

verdicts and settlements

Philadelphia Jury Awards Paralyzed Heroin Addict

By Max Mitchell |

A Philadelphia jury has awarded more than $6 million to a heroin addict who was paralyzed from the chest down due to alleged negligent medical treatment.

Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Action for Week of March 16

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive, legislative and judiciary action for the week of March 16. Members of the state House of Representatives are scheduled to return to voting session March 30; Senate members are scheduled to return April 13.

Wolf, Republicans Battle Over School Funding Letter

By John L. Kennedy |

Republican lawmakers called Gov. Tom Wolf out on a letter from his acting secretary of Education, sent to the state's school districts, asking how they would spend money they haven't yet received.

Legislation Would Change Approach to Teacher Layoffs

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation introduced simultaneously in the state House of Representatives and Senate would end the practice of teacher layoffs based on seniority.

Sam Stretton

Cooperation Is the Best Approach Before the Judicial Conduct Board

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are some tips for representing judges before the Judicial Conduct Board?

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Family Law and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

By James R. Nixon Jr. |

In a perfect world, divorce, custody and support proceedings would wrap up at the trial court level, and the parties involved could move on to the next chapter of their lives.

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Financially Distressed Municipalities Obtain New Taxing Powers

By Timothy J. Horstmann |

On Oct. 31, 2014, then-Gov. Tom Corbett signed HB 1773 into law, as Act 199. Act 199 represents the most significant reform in decades of Pennsylvania's financial recovery program, commonly known as the Act 47 program.

Jeff Jubelirer

Bypassing the Media's Filter to Relay Your Message

By Jeff Jubelirer |

Just over two decades ago, if you wanted to raise awareness of your firm or organization, you would have to either pay for an ad or pitch your story to a journalist at a newspaper, radio or television station and hope they would cover it.

Justices Hear Debate on MCARE Limits on Ostensible Agency

By Lizzy McLellan |

In a medical malpractice case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, appellate counsel argued over the circumstances necessary for a reasonable patient to think the treating doctor is an agent of a hospital under the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act, as well as that law's limits on nonphysician testimony.

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Program Aims to Help Pro Se Litigants in High Court

By Lizzy McLellan |

With a new pro bono appointment system in place, the Pennsylvania courts are working to lower the number of pro se litigants at the high court level.

Court Denies Benefits for Man Fired Over Personal Emails

By Max Mitchell |

A county employee fired for emailing his wife while at work will not be able to recover unemployment benefits, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Use of Public Funds in Union Election Debated Before Justices

By Lizzy McLellan |

In arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court how a nonprofit corporation can use money provided by the government, both sides offered the question, "Where does it stop?"

Evidence Argued in Tossed Turnpike Whistleblower Case

By Max Mitchell |

The judge who tossed a whistleblower suit against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for insufficient evidence failed to consider a grand jury presentment and a key affidavit, the attorney representing the plaintiff argued before the state Supreme Court last week in Philadelphia.

verdicts and settlements

Fallen Shelf Caused Head Injury, Plaintiff Claims

According to the plaintiff's mediation memorandum, on Oct. 5, 2011, plaintiff Jessica M. Ng, a scientific researcher, was standing in an aisle and talking to a co-worker at the Colket Translational Research Center in Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, when a 32-pound wood panel fell from a tech desk and struck her on the head.

verdicts and settlements

Sewer Fees Not Required at Widow's Unoccupied House

A judge in Lackawanna County has decided in favor of the defense in a case involving sewer fees for an uninhabited house.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of March 9, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of March 9. Members of the state House of Representatives are scheduled to return to voting session on March 30; Senate members are scheduled to return April 13.

Disagreement Over Budget Deficit Fuels Growing Tensions

By John L. Kennedy |

The Wolf administration and the Independent Fiscal Office differ in their estimates of the looming budget deficit by at least half a billion dollars.

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Cannot Bring Up Evidence the Rules Prohibit

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am doing a prisoner's excessive force case. From an ethics standpoint, how much can a defense lawyer bring in about a police officer's background? Is it unethical for a defense lawyer to question a plaintiff in a civil rights case about the details of a prior conviction?

'Moran' Decision Has Big Implications for Municipal Officials

By Joseph J. McGrory Jr. and John F. Walko |

On Nov. 20, 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Moran, 2014 Pa.LEXIS 3044 (Pa. 2014), affirming Haverford Township Commissioner Fred Moran's bribery conviction in connection with a sale of township-owned real estate. This case is of importance and interest to municipal officials who negotiate with developers over conditions of approval for land developments or when considering zoning amendments.

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Addressing Patient Safety in Pennsylvania

By Clifford A. Rieders |

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority is in the process of preparing its 2014 annual report to the legislature, as required by law. The PSA was created when Gov. Mark Schweiker signed HB 1802, regarding medical malpractice reform, on March 20, 2002.

Stephanie Burt

An Update on Oil and Gas Lease Extension Litigation

By Stefanie L. Burt |

A common oil and gas lease dispute in the Appalachian region involves challenges by lessors to a lessee's extension of the primary term of oil and gas leases pursuant to an express extension provision in the leases.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - March 17, 2015 - New Partner Named

Adam L. Fernandez was elected a partner with Wisler Pearlstine.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

AG Kane's Case Highlights Justices' March Arguments

By Lizzy McLellan |

Ethical issues in the public sector are set to take the stage this week as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear several cases dealing with state officials—including an important one for Attorney General Kathleen Kane—as well as government agencies and funds.

En Banc Panel Split Over Deputy Constable Standards

By Lizzy McLellan |

Constables no longer have to demonstrate an unusual necessity when appointing deputy constables, the Commonwealth Court has ruled in an en banc decision. But the panel was divided on whether district attorneys should be involved at all in those appointments.

Northampton Judge Challenges Ban on Judges in Business

By Lizzy McLellan |

A court of common pleas judge has said a judicial conduct rule that requires him to resign from two financial boards in June violates his constitutional rights, and the state Supreme Court, while rejecting his initial application for relief, has not entirely disposed of the challenge.

Defendants Lack Cause for Additional PTSD Testing

By Max Mitchell |

The plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident will not need to undergo additional medical testing that the defendants' expert claimed is necessary to render a more accurate examination of the plaintiff's claimed post-traumatic stress disorder, a Lackawanna County judge has ruled.

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Court Overrules State Board in ATV Dealers' Dispute

By Lizzy McLellan |

A state agency cannot prevent the designation of a new franchisee because of the possibility that competition with an existing dealer would cause one or both to close, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Mar. 10, 2015 - Moore Elected to Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce Board

Gretchen E. Moore of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky was elected to the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.

verdicts and settlements

Phila. Jury Awards Families of Slain Factory Workers

By Max Mitchell |

The family members of two Kraft factory workers who were fatally gunned down by a disgruntled employee have received an award of more than $8 million from a Philadelphia jury.

verdicts and settlements

Family of Woman Killed in Head-on Collision Awarded

By Max Mitchell |

The family of a woman killed in a multiple-vehicle collision has received an award of nearly $1.5 million from a Monroe County jury.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of March 2

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of March 2. Members of the state House of Representatives are set to return to voting session March 30; members of the state Senate are set to return April 13.

Wolf, Lawmakers Far Apart Entering Budget Process

By John L. Kennedy |

Gov. Tom Wolf delivered his first budget address on March 3, and the Republicans controlling the state House of Representatives and Senate quickly dismissed nearly his entire plan.

Pensions to Take Big Chunk Out of Next Year's Budget

By John L. Kennedy |

The state's two largest public pensions systems, the State Employees' Retirement System, covering state workers, and the Public School Employees' Retirement System, covering public school teachers, will cost the general fund $2.4 billion next year, according to the Independent Fiscal Office.

Sam Stretton

Young Lawyers Must Be Prepared for the Practical Aspects of the Profession

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a young lawyer and want to open my own office. What are some of the most important aspects of beginning a law practice?

Daniel J. Siegel

Policy Change Would Limit Confidential Information in Filings

By Daniel J. Siegel |

Most people have no idea how to hack a website in order to locate confidential information such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and birth dates. But when it comes to court websites, in many cases you don't need to be a geek or a hacker to access this information.

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Death-Penalty Dispute Misses the Mark

By Matthew T. Mangino |

The battle in Pennsylvania over the death penalty, although well intended on both sides of the issue, is misguided and will do nothing to advance the fundamental question: Is the death penalty an appropriate punishment in 21st century Pennsylvania?

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A Closer Look at Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Bill

By Peter S. Murphy |

There is a good chance the General Assembly will pass legislation legalizing medical marijuana in 2015.

Judges Hint at Broader Rule on Workplace Violence

By Lizzy McLellan |

A store manager who experienced an armed robbery may be able to receive workers' compensation for her mental injuries, an en banc Commonwealth Court panel has ruled, but a portion of the panel raised the question of whether such events at work could ever be considered normal.

Increased Oil and Gas Regulations Expected Under Wolf

By Max Mitchell |

With Gov. Tom Wolf proposing and implementing changes for the oil and natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, several legal industry insiders are predicting increased regulations for oil and natural gas development over the next few years.

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Justices: Paperless Voting Machines Satisfy Election Code

By Lizzy McLellan |

Direct-recording electronic voting systems that do not produce a contemporaneous paper record of each vote cast comply with state requirements and do not violate citizens' right to vote, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled.

Despite Plaintiff's Reckless Driving, Truck Suit Revived

By Max Mitchell |

Even though a sedan containing several plaintiffs recklessly attempted to pass a tractor-trailer from a right-turn-only lane, the case against the truck driver involved in the collision will be allowed to proceed, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Missing Housekeeping Record Creates Issue of Fact

By Lizzy McLellan |

The absence of some monitoring records and potential for spoliation of evidence by defendants should have precluded summary judgment in a slip-and-fall case against the Lehigh Valley Mall, the Superior Court has ruled.

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Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Mar. 3, 2015 - McGowan Elected to Lenape Valley Foundation board

Kellie A. McGowan, a shareholder at Eastburn and Gray, was elected to serve as a member of the board of directors for the Lenape Valley Foundation.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff Awarded in First Philadelphia Risperdal Trial

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

A Philadelphia jury awarded $2.5 million to the plaintiff in the first of roughly 1,250 Risperdal mass-tort cases in the city's courts.