Pennsylvania Law Weekly News

Despite New Role, Saylor's Pen Keeps Flowing

By Lizzy McLellan |

Nearly seven months into a calendar year when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is operating with two vacant seats, the justices appear to be issuing opinions at a reasonable pace, observers said, while the court's leader has taken an especially active role in writing.

Justices Affirm Rare Insurance Liquidation Denials

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has rejected efforts by the Pennsylvania Insurance commissioner to convert the rehabilitation of two insurance companies into liquidations.


High Court Addresses Time Limit for Vote on Township Class

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has removed a time restriction on submitting referendum questions asking whether a second-class township should be reclassified as first-class.

Superior Court Declines to Expand Collective-Knowledge Doctrine

By Max Mitchell |

A police officer executing a search warrant at a man's home did not have probable cause to arrest another man on the premises, despite the fact that another police officer saw the defendant take part in a drug transaction days before, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Post-Injury Agreement Doesn't Limit Benefits Eligibility

By Ben Seal |

A roof painter who signed an independent subcontractor agreement after being injured at the job site is still eligible for workers' compensation benefits because he was an employee at the time of his injury, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - July 28, 2015 - Elliott Elected to Girls on the Run Board

Denise E. Elliott, of counsel at McNees Wallace & Nurick, was elected to serve a three-year term on the board of directors for Girls on the Run of Lancaster.

verdicts and settlements

Injured Landscaper Settles Workers' Compensation Claim

By Max Mitchell |

A man who suffered a traumatic brain injury while working as a landscaper has agreed to a $4.6 million settlement to cover his ongoing care.

verdicts and settlements

Tyco Electronics Owes Millions in Shareholder Suit

By Gina Passarella |

Tyco Electronics is liable to a group of former Com-Net Critical Communications shareholders for $125.8 million, an Allegheny County judge ruled last week.

Legislative and Executive Action for Week of July 20

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of July 20. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to action Sept. 21.

Budget Discussions Carry on in Harrisburg

By John L. Kennedy |

For the first time, Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf said a budget meeting, held last Tuesday, was productive.

Top Lawmakers Ask AG to Investigate Planned Parenthood

By John L. Kennedy |

In a letter, the top two state lawmakers asked Attorney General Kathleen Kane to investigate Planned Parenthood given the release of a video showing the group's medical director discussing procedures for providing researchers with the body parts of aborted fetuses.

Sam Stretton

Criminal Defense Lawyers Should be Allowed to Make Early Pleas

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I read an opinion of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Legal Ethics Committee concerning ethical responsibilities of both the prosecutor and defense counsel for early accountability programs. Is it correct?


Parental Alienation in Child-Custody Cases

By Melissa Iacobucci |

By now, you have probably heard about the case out of Michigan where a family court judge sent three siblings to juvenile detention for refusing to visit their estranged father. The children's parents divorced five years ago and have been battling in court ever since over custody.


Potential Risks in Voluntary Reporting of Bank Loans

By Daniel J. Malpezzi and Timothy J. Horstmann |

A current hot topic in the world of municipal finance is the issue of voluntary reporting of information regarding direct bank loans to governmental entities or conduit governmental entity borrowers.

Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder

The Unavoidable Bias of an Independent Medical Exam

By Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder |

In defending a claim for workers' compensation benefits, the employer is entitled to compel the injured worker to undergo a physical examination under Section 314 of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act.

Centre Co. Controversy Raises Texting, Social Media Issues

By Max Mitchell & Lizzy McLellan |

In filings before the state Superior Court, the appeal of a woman convicted of aggravated assault, simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person have started focusing less on the defendant and more on the conduct of the judge who oversaw the case and the Centre County district attorney.

Helping Injured Worker Is Within Scope of Employment

By Lizzy McLellan |

An employee who became injured while trying to help another worker in danger was within the course and scope of employment for workers' compensation purposes, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.


Court OKs Misrepresentation Claims Over Building Designs

By Max Mitchell |

The state Superior Court has allowed a construction company to proceed with its negligent-misrepresentation case against an architectural firm for allegedly providing inadequate design plans.

Court Approves Retroactive Offset for Pension Benefits

By Lizzy McLellan |

An employer should be able to recoup an offset in workers' compensation benefits from a claimant who received disability pension payments, the Commonwealth Court has ruled, because it satisfied its notification duty by sending reporting forms to the claimant.

Testimony From Assault Victim's Counselor Admissible

By Lizzy McLellan |

Statements between a sexual-assault counselor and a victim should be admissible as evidence in expungement proceedings, the Commonwealth Court has ruled in a matter of first impression.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - July 21, 2015 - Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote Add Yu as Principal

Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote added Jun H. Yu as a principal in its Pittsburgh office.

verdicts and settlements

Allegheny Co. Settles With Estate of Man Who Died in Prison

By Gina Passarella |

Allegheny County and the former company that provided medical services to the county prison have agreed to settle for $2.09 million with the estate of a prisoner who died after weeks of asking for medical treatment to no avail.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Favors Defense In Dram Shop Action

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Chester County jury has decided in favor of the defendants in a dram shop case where the plaintiff drove drunk and sustained severe brain injuries.

Legislative and Executive Action for Week of July 13

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of July 13. Members of the House of Representatives were set to return to session July 20; members of the Senate are scheduled to return Sept. 21.

Budget Standoff Continues in Harrisburg

By John L. Kennedy |

Two weeks into the budget standoff in Harrisburg, Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf are resorting to public accusations as to the motivations of the other side.

Legislation Targeting Local Gun Ordinances Coming Back

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation permitting legal action against local governments that approve gun-control ordinances stricter than state law will be back after the Commonwealth Court last month ruled the law unconstitutional.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Contact Corporations' Former Employees for Information

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I sued a corporation, and one of its former employees who has critical material called and wants to meet with me to provide information. Can I meet with this person or would it violate Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2?


Pa. Supreme Court Digs Into Criminal Justice Issues

By Matthew T. Mangino |

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a smattering of criminal justice-related decisions. Although those decisions will have differing influence on the criminal justice system, it is important to note two recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions that will have an impact as well.

David G. Mandelbaum

'Horne' and Environmental Law: The Case of the Taken Raisins

By David G. Mandelbaum |

On June 22, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a takings case, Horne v. Department of Agriculture, 135 S. Ct. 1039 (2015). Horne was easy to overlook, followed as it was over the following seven days by King v. Burwell, No. 14-114 (Affordable Care Act), Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556 (same-sex marriage), Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 14-46 (Mercury Air Toxics Standards) and Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission, No. 13-1314(nonpartisan redistricting).

How Small Firms Can Sustain Growth and Maintain Firm Culture

By Jessica L. Mazzeo |

Starting a small law firm or going out on your own as a solo practitioner takes a lot of courage, among other things, like confidence, determination and hopefully, a portable book of business. Sometimes the impetus for the new venture is a desire to depart from the culture or business model of Big Law.

Rule Changes Clear Up Legal Gray Area in Post-Trial Motions

By By Max Mitchell |

A legal trap for the unwary, exposed during the appeal of the $18.5 million judgment against Safeway and Genuardi's Family Markets, has been resolved.

Timeliness of Declaratory Judgment Action Depends on Facts

By Lizzy McLellan |

The statute of limitations on an insurance company's lawsuit over coverage duties is triggered when the insurer becomes aware that it may not have a duty to defend and indemnify, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Recordings From Police Vehicle Camera Can Be Released

By Lizzy McLellan |

Recordings obtained by a police vehicle's in-car camera are not exempt from disclosure as criminal investigative records, the Commonwealth Court has ruled, under both the Right-to-Know Law and the Criminal History Record Information Act.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - July 14, 2015 - McGrory Elected Secretary/Treasurer of Municipal Law Section of PBA

Joseph J. McGrory Jr. of Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin was elected secretary/treasurer of the municipal law section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

verdicts and settlements

Drugmakers Settle With US Over Underpaid Medicaid Rebates

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

Pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Cephalon have agreed to pay the U.S. government and several states a combined total of $54 million to settle claims that they underpaid rebates owed under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

verdicts and settlements

Amputee Gets Settlement Before Second Trial

By Lizzy McLellan |

An electrical worker who was injured by a track loader with a 10-year-old operator has reached a $12 million settlement with the defendants, after a trial court judge's opinion overturned the original $20 million verdict in the case, but before the Superior Court affirmed that decision granting a new trial.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of July 6

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 6. Senate members were set to return to session Monday. House members are at the call of the chair.

Wolf, GOP Leaders Continue to Wrangle Over Budget

By John L. Kennedy |

In some ways, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf are no closer to a budget agreement than when the governor first unveiled his spending plan in early March.

More Local Pension Plans Eyed by Auditor General

By John L. Kennedy |

Eddystone Borough and Nether Providence Township, both in Delaware County, are the two most recent examples of local pension systems gone awry. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale used the two in his now almost monthly plea for the General Assembly to act to avert a full-blown financial crisis on the local government level.

Sam Stretton

Anti-Nepotism Provisions Should Have Exceptions

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Does it violate the nepotism provisions of the new Code of Judicial Conduct for a judicial officer to use a relative who is an elected constable and was elected in their jurisdiction?

Daniel J. Siegel

Should There Be a Cause of Action for Negligent Referrals?

By Daniel J. Siegel |

I can still remember the sage advice that my Civil Procedure professor offered in my first law school class: "Get the fee first," he said, as his class of students listened attentively. We were shocked. After all, we went to law school to help people and to assure that every member of society would have access to justice. But his words struck a chord in many students, who recognized the underlying message that law is a business as much as it is a profession.

Matthew B. Weisberg

Contributory Negligence Bars Legal Malpractice Negligence

By Matthew Weisberg |

For all intents and purposes, Pennsylvania has abandoned the doctrine of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence. That is, the allocation of a plaintiff's own contribution to a defendant's liability will offset the ultimate award but not preclude recovery if the plaintiff's own liability is 50 percent or less causative. Plaintiff liability contribution of 1 percent has all but been eliminated as otherwise barring an action.

Justin H. Werner

Presumption of Judicial Determination in Oil and Gas Arbitration

By Justin H. Werner |

The inclusion of an arbitration clause in oil and gas leases throughout the Appalachia region, requiring that parties arbitrate disputes arising out of their leases, has become commonplace. As development of these leases continues and royalties are paid for production, disputes over the meaning of lease provisions concerning payment are occurring more frequently. A relatively new battlefront in these arbitrations that is being played out in Pennsylvania right now is whether class-action arbitrations of these lease disputes are authorized.

Can Affordable Care Act Ruling Help the Defense Bar?

By Max Mitchell |

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed for the second time the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but it also may have given the defense bar a little more of a bargaining chip when it comes to personal-injury cases.

Supreme Court Takes Up Bad-Faith Penalties Question

By Lizzy McLellan |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to address a question that could intensify the consequences for government agencies that fail to pay contractors.

Justices to Hear Case Involving 'Fictional' Assessment

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a six-figure tax assessment that the Commonwealth Court said was unsupported by evidence.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - July 7, 2015 - Aldrich Joins Rawle & Henderson

Robert J. Aldrich III joined Rawle & Henderson's Harrisburg office.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Carpenter After Stairway Collapse

By Max Mitchell |

A Philadelphia jury awarded $3 million to a carpenter who broke his shoulder after the temporary stairway he was walking on collapsed.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Pizzeria Owner For Loss of Taste

On Sept. 1, 2009, plaintiff Antonio Costagliola, 34, a pizzeria owner, presented to otolaryngologist Samuel Rizzo, of Pittston, because of episodes of recurrent tonsillitis for approximately five years.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of June 29

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of June 29. Members of the General Assembly will return when called back by legislative leaders.

Budget Negotiations Begin, Again

By John L. Kennedy |

Gov. Tom Wolf followed through on his promise when last week he vetoed the entire state budget approved by the General Assembly just a day before the end of the fiscal year.

General Assembly Approves Liquor Privatization Bill

For the first time ever, both the state House of Representatives and Senate last week approved legislation that would start to get the state out of the liquor and wine business. Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto the bill, but Republican lawmakers will continue to push for some level of liquor privatization as budget talks continue.

Sam Stretton

Technology Presents Concerns About Protecting the Privilege

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Is it ethical for lawyers to use email with clients?

Leonard Deutchman

The USA Freedom Act and Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence

By Leonard Deutchman |

The USA Freedom Act of 2015, enacted June 2, sharply curtails the ability of the National Security Agency and FBI to obtain, without judicial approval, transactional telephone records from carriers and to search the metadata contained in those records without judicial approval as well.


Excessive Zoning and Land-Use Fees Subject to Legal Challenge

By Blaine A. Lucas, Krista-Ann M. Staley ;and Alyssa E. Golfieri |

With a growing number of townships, boroughs and cities experiencing fiscal challenges, many municipalities have increased or are considering increasing their fees related to the administration of their zoning, subdivision and land development, and related ordinances as a means of generating additional revenue.


The Top 10 Decisions From 25 Years of Bad-Faith Law

By Richard L. McMonigle Jr. and Bryan M. Shay |

July 1 marked the 25th anniversary of the effective date of Pennsylvania's insurance bad-faith statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. Section 8371. For attorneys who litigate in the insurance field, this statute—which allowed insureds to sue their insurers for bad-faith conduct and, if successful, recover punitive damages, attorney fees, interest and costs—has had a tremendous impact.

Justices OK Tobacco Fund Use but Question Lawmaking

By Lizzy McLellan |

The former beneficiaries of a state health care program were not entitled to the money from a 2001 tobacco settlement that funded the insurance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided.

Tech Moves Too Fast to Enforce Smartphone Noncompete

By Max Mitchell |

Citing the rapid advance of technology, a smartphone and computer repair company will not be able to enforce a noncompete agreement against a former employee, a court of common pleas judge has ruled.

Failing to Report Recovery Not 'Willful Misconduct'

By Lizzy McLellan |

An employee who did not directly tell her employer that she was able to return for work did not violate a reasonable expectation under workers' compensation law, and may therefore collect unemployment compensation for her termination, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Superior Court Won't Compel Nursing Home Arbitration

By Max mitchell |

Reinforcing a prior decision on a first-impression issue, the state Superior Court has ruled that a plaintiff's wrongful-death and survival actions against a nursing home facility will not need to be bifurcated so one claim can go to a jury trial and the other to arbitration.

No Implied Consent for Unconscious DUI Suspects, Court Rules

By Max Mitchell |

Police should have secured a warrant before performing a blood test on an unconscious man suspected of driving under the influence, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - June 30, 2015 - Bovender Joins Rawle & Henderson

Jolee Bovender joined Rawle & Henderson's Harrisburg office as an associate.

verdicts and settlements

Injured Motorcyclist Settles Claim With Driver

By Max Mitchell |

A motorcyclist who fractured her pelvis after being hit by a sedan in Dauphin County has settled her claim against the defendant driver for $1.2 million.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Renders Defense Verdict for Infant Cataract Claims

By Max Mitchell |

A Philadelphia jury has rendered a defense verdict for a pediatrician over claims that he failed to diagnose an infant's cataract.

Executive and Regulatory Action for Week of June 22

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and regulatory action for the week of June 22. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session June 29.

Senate Panel OKs Liability Limit for Gas Drillers

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would limit liability for oil and natural gas drillers using coal mine water that has been treated cleared the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Public Contract Cost-Analysis Bill Approved by House Cmte.

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would require a state fiscal office to determine the cost of public-sector contracts before they take effect cleared the state House of Representatives State Government Committee. The bill, SB 644, has already won approval in the state Senate.

Sam Stretton

Courtroom Arrangements Have Changed Over Time

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Have there been major changes in courtroom seating and conduct of lawyers during trial in the last 75 years?

Kenneth Racowski

Post-Closing Control of Seller's Attorney-Client Privilege in M&A

By Kenneth L. Racowski |

Litigation involving mergers, asset acquisitions or other change-in-control transactions can give rise to complicated questions concerning the attorney-client privilege. In recent years, a developing body of case law has emerged regarding the control of the attorney-client privilege in the context of mergers and acquisitions.


Sexual Violence and Intimidation Protections Take Effect July 1

By Melissa A. Iacobucci |

Nearly 10 years after it was first introduced, the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act takes effect in Pennsylvania on July 1, making it the 34th state to establish protection for sexual-assault victims. The act provides victims of sexual violence or intimidation a civil remedy that requires the offender to stay away from the victim regardless of whether the victim decides to seek criminal prosecution. While the PSVI Act is modeled closely after the Protection from Abuse Act, there are some key differences.


Can Social Media Speech Violate Protection-From-Abuse Orders?

By Aaron D. Weems |

When the U.S. Supreme Court took up the appeal of Anthony Elonis' conviction in Elonis v. United States (Docket No. 12-983, Term 2014), under the federal criminal statute 18 U.S.C. Section 875 (related to the use of transmitting by interstate or commerce any communication threatening to kidnap or injure another person), observers and legal analysts surmised it was the court's first significant foray into social media speech and content.

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)

Two High Court Cases Could Transform Executive Power

By Lizzy McLellan |

In the early weeks of his administration, Gov. Tom Wolf raised questions about the limits of executive power, to which the other branches of government are now proffering contested answers. But conclusions from the state's high court are yet to come, and could reshape the way Pennsylvania treats its governors.


CASPA Not Applicable to Public Works Projects

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act does not apply to construction projects where the project owner is a government entity, the state Supreme Court has ruled in a unanimous decision.


Justices Reject Per Se Rule on Guilty Plea Withdrawal

By Max Mitchell |

Asserting innocence after pleading guilty does not provide sufficient reason for a trial court to grant a presentence request to withdraw the plea, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

Lawyer Who Contacted Only One Expert Faces Lawsuit

By Lizzy McLellan |

When a plaintiff's attorney contacts only one potential expert to support a certificate of merit and that expert does not support the plaintiff's claims, a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the attorney breached his duty of care, the Superior Court has ruled.

Notice, Hearing Not Required for Municipal Lien

By Lizzy McLellan |

A property owner can be ordered to pay municipal liens for utility bills neglected by his former tenants, even if he had no prior notice of the unpaid debts, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - June 23, 2015 - Roberts Promoted to Partner at Rothman Gordon

Raymond M. Roberts was promoted to partner at Rothman Gordon.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Finds for Pfizer In Zoloft Birth Defect Suit

By Gina Passarella |

A Philadelphia jury handed up a defense win in a suit brought by an Illinois woman who said her use of the antidepressant Zoloft during pregnancy was the cause of her daughter's congenital heart defects.

verdicts and settlements

Defense Verdict in Case of Anchor Fired for Racial Slur

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

A federal jury unanimously handed up a defense verdict, rejecting allegations of discrimination by Tom Burlington, the white news anchor who was fired by the Fox 29 television station after he used the word "n-----" in an editorial meeting.

Executive and Legislative Activity for Week of June 15

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative activity for the week of June 15. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session June 22.

Budget Negotiators in Harrisburg Agree on Size of Deficit

By John L. Kennedy |

Just agreeing on the size of the deficit for the next fiscal year is progress in budget negotiations between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Two Ex-Governors Advocate Merit Selection Bill

By John L. Kennedy |

Proponents of establishing a merit selection system for judges at the appellate level are trying yet again to get a bill through the General Assembly—twice, since it would amend the state Constitution.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Must Advise Unrepresented Parties to Obtain Counsel

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I filed a lawsuit against several defendants, one of whom told me he wanted to give me a statement. Can I take one?


Internet Advertising Rules Need to Be Enforced

By Barry Rabin |

Imagine the following scenario: You make the decision to move your law office to a nearby town. Like most lawyers, you've got plenty of bills to pay, and you want to start increasing the flow of new clients to the new office as soon as possible. If you're like most attorneys today, you forget about the local newspaper and the Yellow Pages, and decide to concentrate your marketing efforts on the place where most of the public goes to find a lawyer these days: the Internet.

Does Receipt of Disability Income Mean No Earning Capacity?

By Julie A. Auerbach and Jasen M. Walker |

Family law practitioners and courts often assume that when an individual is receiving disability income, that individual does not have an earning capacity. This Q&A, with responses from vocational expert Jasen Walker, explains why this assumption is not always correct.

Jeff Jubelirer

Preserving Your Legacy Begins Online

By Jeff Jubelirer |

I've written regularly about communicating before, during and after crises in these pages. While new technologies and external events continue to change the environment in which we work and live, the basic tenets of crisis communication have generally remained stable: Respond and take ownership of your or your client's mistake if necessary; say what you're going to do to ensure that the mistake doesn't happen again; and provide a vehicle (a phone number and website) for your audience to learn more or ask questions. Perhaps it's now time to add a new tenet: Determine the potential for damage resulting from your mistake to your online reputation.

Close up of a Smartphone Camera

Wearable Technology Creates New Legal Problems

By Lizzy McLellan |

Increasing options and decreasing prices in portable and wearable technology, like Google Glass, have made it easier for the average person to capture moments in everyday life, but that ability comes with a plethora of legal questions regarding wiretapping, privacy and admissibility of evidence.

Hazing, Harassment Suits Part of Litigation 'Explosion'

By Max Mitchell |

In the past three months, three high-profile civil suits over hazing and harassment have been filed against two universities in Pennsylvania, and that cluster of lawsuits is no coincidence, according to personal injury attorneys and defense counsel.

'Jerk and Jolt' Doctrine Dooms Bus Passenger's Injury Suit

By Lizzy McLellan |

A bus passenger who fell during her ride will not be able to take her personal injury case to a jury without demonstrating unusual movement of the bus, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - June 16, 2015 - Bowers Joins MacElree Harvey

Aimee C. Bowers joined MacElree Harvey as an attorney in the business department.

verdicts and settlements

Parties Reach Settlement in Fatal Truck Crash Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

The wife of a truck driver who was killed in a two-truck accident has reached settlement with the other driver, his employer and the company that leased to the employer.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Man For Unnecessary Skin Grafts

By Max Mitchell |

A man who burned himself while cooking has been awarded $3 million for undergoing unnecessary skin grafts.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of June 8

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of June 8. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session June 15.

Severance Tax on Drilling Takes Setback

By John L. Kennedy |

Another one of Gov. Tom Wolf's budget items, a tax on shale drilling, has seemingly been shot down by Republican lawmakers.

Local Government Pension Reform Advances

By John L. Kennedy |

The public pension crisis on the state level receives most of the attention, but pensions in some municipalities are likewise drowning in debt, and last week the state House of Representatives State Government Committee moved a bill that would change the pension system for all future hires of local police and fire departments.

Sam Stretton

Law School Graduates Without Bar Admission are Limited

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I recently graduated from law school, but I have not yet been admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania. I am working with a law firm that has hired me with the understanding that as soon as I am licensed, I will be doing attorney work and become an associate in the firm. What can I do now?


The Attorney General's Office Is Focused on Consumer Protection

By Basil L. Merenda |

The article titled "Attorneys Say AG Work Lags in Pennsylvania," published June 2 in The Legal, discussing consumer protection work, could not have been more off-base and was downright misleading. In fact, consumer protection in Pennsylvania has made a long overdue comeback under Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's watch and we have the facts to prove it.


Should State Agencies Get Less Deference Than the EPA?

By Caleb J. Holmes |

When negotiating consent decrees with a government agency, should the fact that the agency is a state or federal agency matter? If a state is not accorded the same deference toward its decision to enter into consent decrees—because it is enforcing a federal environmental law—how does the strategy change for state agencies and private parties?


A Possible Blueprint for Landowners Challenging Pipeline Companies

By Robert J. Burnett & William J. Blakemore |

Landowners in Kentucky may be emboldened by a recent decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that rejected an attempt by Bluegrass Pipeline Co. to obtain public utility status that would allow it to acquire easements pursuant to eminent domain.

Justices to Eye Consolidation Question That's Split Appeals Courts

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question of appealability in consolidated actions, an issue over which the Superior and Commonwealth courts are at odds.

Pro Hac Vice Fees Hiked to Aid Attorney Loan Fund

By Max Mitchell |

In an effort to revitalize a student loan debt program supporting attorneys who provide civil legal work for those who can't afford representation, the state Supreme Court has nearly doubled the fee for out-of-state attorneys to appear in Pennsylvania courts.

Tax on Legal Services a Top Issue for PBA President

By Lizzy McLellan |

The new president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association said the organization's top legislative priority this year is working to prevent a sales tax on legal services.

Court Rules DEP Emails and Web Page Not Actual Notice

By Lizzy McLellan |

An email update and Web posting from the Department of Environmental Protection did not constitute sufficient notice to initiate an appeal, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word Evidence.

HIPAA Doesn't Bar List of Witnesses to Health Facility Fall

By Max Mitchell |

A physical therapy facility must turn over a list of potential eyewitnesses after a patient fell during an exercise, a court of common pleas judge has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - June 9, 2015 - Leah Elected to Allegheny Judiciary Committee

Tucker Arensberg attorney Scott R. Leah was elected by the membership of the Allegheny County Bar Association for a three-year term to the Judiciary Committee.

verdicts and settlements

Cephalon Agrees to Record Settlement in Pay-for-Delay Case

By Saranac Hale Spencer |

The Federal Trade Commission's biggest settlement to date—$1.2 billion in a pay-for-delay case—came out of federal court in Philadelphia.

verdicts and settlements

Worker Awarded After Fall Through Scaffolding Hole

By Lizzy McLellan |

A jury in Philadelphia has awarded more than $527,000 to an energy plant worker who fell through scaffolding.

Legislative and Executive Action for Week of June 1

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of June 1. Members of the General Assembly were set to return to session June 8.

Committee-Approved Bill Would Cap Nursing Home Punitives

By John L. Kennedy |

A punitive damages cap of 200 percent of the compensatory damages awarded in a lawsuit against personal care facilities would apply under SB 747, approved by the state Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week.

Budget Negotiations Turn Serious After House Floor 'Stunt'

By John L. Kennedy |

Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal took a beating on the state House of Representatives floor last week, with no lawmakers voting for the plan.

Sam Stretton

Judges Must Comply with Changes to the Code of Conduct

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a judge and I have served in the past on the board of trustees of my church and acted as an executor for a family member. May I continue with these activities until they are completed?

Will Sylianteng

Attenuation of the Attorney-Client Privilege

By Will Sylianteng |

In One Beacon America Insurance v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance, No. 2012-cv-4490 (April 13, 2015, Lackawanna CCP), the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas held that the plaintiff insurance company's inadvertent disclosure of an intra-office memorandum, referred to as a case conference sheet, was not privileged and therefore did not open the door to a subject-matter waiver of attorney-client privilege, despite the fact that it revealed sensitive communications from the plaintiff's attorney.


Spoliation as a Liability Lifeline

By Craig Robinson |

Many cases are ultimately won or lost because of early preparation or lack thereof. Spoliation can be a key to winning a liability case where there appears to be no apparent strong theory. This is especially true in premises liability cases, where relevant evidence is lost or destroyed.


Informed Consent: The Relationship Between Doctor and Manufacturer

By Clifford A. Rieders |

When a physician implants a device in a patient, does informed consent require the doctor to tell the patient of any financial relationship the physician or the institution he works for has with the manufacturer or distributor of the product?

Is Scrutiny of First Responders on the Rise?

By Lizzy McLellan |

Increased media scrutiny of police brutality allegations seems to be affecting prosecutors' approach to allegations against first responders, some criminal defense attorneys have said. But a representative of Pennsylvania district attorneys said they have always assessed those situations carefully, and that has not changed.

insurance policy

Justices Decline to Broadly Interpret Policy Terms

By Max Mitchell |

In clarifying the application of a nearly 50-year-old case, the state Supreme Court has rejected an insurance carrier's argument that property owners, who were additional named insureds under a restaurant's commercial umbrella policy, were precluded from coverage under the policy's employer's liability exclusion.

gavel and book

Court Clarifies Evidence Standard for Consumer Claims

By Lizzy McLellan |

A preponderance of the evidence standard can be applied to a statutory claim under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, rather than a clear and convincing evidence burden of proof, the Superior Court has ruled in a matter of first impression.

medical malpractice

Appeal of Earlier Order Allowed in Consolidated Litigation

By Lizzy McLellan |

The state Superior Court has jurisdiction to hear all appeals regarding separate judgments in consolidated medical malpractice litigation, even though one of the judgments predated the others by almost two years.

Superior Court Seeks More Information on Asset Transfer

By Max Mitchell |

The state Superior Court has remanded a sex-crime victim's Fraudulent Transfer Act suit for further consideration about whether the perpetrator and the businessman who purchased the perpetrator's small business are indispensable parties in the case.


Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - June 2, 2015 - PBI Directory Named

Joel R. Burcat, a partner in Saul Ewing's environment and oil and gas practices, was appointed to the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

verdicts and settlements

Federal Judge Enforces Settlement In UIM Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

A judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has enforced a $100,000 settlement in an underinsured motor vehicle claim, ruling against the insurer.

Jury Sides with Doctor on Failure-to-Diagnose Lawsuit

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Dauphin County jury sided with the defendant in a medical malpractice case involving a patient's internal hernia and subsequent bowel transplant.

Legislative and Executive Action for Week of May 26, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of May 26. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session June 1.

Legislators Return for Potentially Protracted Budget Season

By John L. Kennedy |

State lawmakers returned to Harrisburg this week after a two-week break and, if some predictions are right, might not get another break from session for another couple of months. They face a June 30 deadline for the approval of a spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year that starts July 1, but most observers contacted said they expect the negotiation process to go well beyond that date.

Wolf Creates Natural Gas Pipeline Task Force

By John L. Kennedy |

Pennsylvania is missing an even bigger opportunity for a return on Marcellus Shale drilling due to an inadequate system of pipelines, business officials have repeatedly said.

Sam Stretton

History is an Integral Part of the Legal Profession

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In your articles, you often mention legal history and say understanding it is important for any lawyer. Why is it so important if a lawyer has clients and knows the law and is well prepared?

What to Look for in the Menendez Case

By Scott A. Coffina |

On April 1, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Dr. Salomon Melgen were charged in the District of New Jersey in a lengthy indictment, accused of conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud.

Gina F. Rubel

Common Law Firm Marketing Mistakes

By Gina F. Rubel |

Many would agree with Benjamin Franklin that silence is a virtue. However, I have never been known for keeping quiet. I recently received a magazine from a legal publisher and found so many law firm marketing mistakes and faux pas that my head began to spin.

Leonard Deutchman

Properly Discharge E-Discovery Duties to Avoid Trouble

By Leonard Deutchman |

In Procaps S.A. v. Patheon, No. 12-24356-Civ-Goodman (S.D. Fl. April 24, 2015), the court granted defendant Patheon Inc.'s motion to depose a court-appointed digital forensics expert who had conducted analysis regarding possible spoliation by plaintiff Procaps.

Verdict Vacated Over Negligent Hiring Claim

By Lizzy McLellan |

A commercial real estate company was not liable for hiring a contractor who was found negligent after a multi-alarm warehouse fire, as the plaintiff failed to show evidence of negligent hiring, the Superior Court has decided.


Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - May 26, 2015

Neil A. Morris of Offit Kurman was appointed as special police labor counsel for Doylestown Township in Bucks County.

verdicts and settlements

Architectural Firm to Pay College for Using Unlicensed Personnel

The Community College of Philadelphia was awarded $5.5 million in its suit against an architectural firm for using unlicensed personnel to work on the construction of a new campus facility.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Legislative, Executive Action for Week of May 17, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of May 17. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session June 1.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Municipal Pensions in Crisis, Auditor General Says

By John L. Kennedy |

Pennsylvania's two state-level pension systems, the State Employees' Retirement System and the Public School Employees' Retirement System, are enormously underfunded and starting to strain the state budget, according to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, whose office in January updated the status of municipal pension systems.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Wolf, Business Groups Trade Barbs Over Drilling Tax

By John L. Kennedy |

It started with a letter to lawmakers from a coalition of natural gas drilling interests and broader business associations. The letter said Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to impose an extraction tax on natural drilling in the Marcellus Shale would "set the commonwealth back instead of allowing the state to grow its economy, jobs and provide Pennsylvanians with lower energy bills."

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers Must Be Attuned to 
the Amended Escrow Rules

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a new lawyer and I am concerned about the amendments to the escrow and financial recordkeeping requirements for lawyers. Is there a bottom line that I have to comply with?

Mind the Gap When It Comes to Balance Billing

By Susan Nanes |

When might a workers' compensation claimant who files in Pennsylvania but receives medical treatment in another state have to pay medical expenses over and above the statutory rates her medical provider receives?

Ariel N. Forbes

Oil and Gas Leases Signed Only by Lessors Still Enforceable

By Ariel N. Forbes |

It is common practice in the oil and gas industry for only the lessor to sign an oil and gas lease. This practice has led to disputes in Pennsylvania regarding whether a lease signed by the lessor alone is valid under the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act's statute of frauds.


Who Is Responsible for Paying the Costs of College?

By Carolyn R. Mirabile |

Clients often ask about their responsibility for college education. In Pennsylvania, neither parent has a legal obligation to pay for their child's college education. But in some cases it may be worthwhile for a parent to agree to pay a portion of the cost.

vote sign

Unions, Lawyers Among Top Spenders in Big-Money Primary

By Lizzy McLellan and Max Mitchell |

In what is shaping up to be the most expensive Pennsylvania Supreme Court race in history, the largest donations have come from lawyers, unions and lawyer-funded political action committees.

Court Backs Denial of Coverage in Fatal Dirt Bike Crash

By Lizzy McLellan |

A homeowner's insurance carrier was within its rights to deny coverage to a man who provided the use of a dirt bike—and, allegedly, alcohol—to a 19-year-old who was fatally injured when he crashed the vehicle, the Superior Court has ruled.


No Blanket Arbitration Award Over SEPTA Police Sick Pay

By Max Mitchell |

The Commonwealth Court has upheld an arbitrator's "narrow" awards for SEPTA police officers who challenged their sick leave amounts.

Attorney Asks Superior Court to Enforce New Punitives Trial

By Max Mitchell |

Counsel for a disabled woman who won a $3 million verdict against the group home that was caring for her has filed a motion to "enforce stare decisis" in an effort to get the common pleas judge to proceed with a new trial on punitive damages.

Order on ADR Provision Is Not Immediately Appealable

By Lizzy McLellan |

An order over the application of an alternative dispute resolution provision is not immediately appealable as of right, the Superior Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly -- People in the News -- May 19, 2015

Neil A. Morris of Offit Kurman was appointed as labor counsel for Plainfield Township in Northampton County.

verdicts and settlements

Energy Company Settles Overtime Suit

An oil-and-gas drilling support services company has settled for $1.25 million a class action suit alleging that it failed to pay overtime.

verdicts and settlements

Bicyclist Gets Settlement After Collision With Truck

By Lizzy McLellan |

A bicyclist has recovered $2.6 million in a settlement with various defendants following a 2012 crash with a mattress store truck.

Legislative Action for Week of May 11

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative action for the week of May 11. Members of the General Assebmly are set to return to session June 1.

Pension Reform Bill Sets Stage for Budget Fight

By John L. Kennedy |

Last week, the state Senate approved public pension reform legislation, SB 1, with a 28-19 vote, setting the stage for what is virtually unanimously expected to be a contentious budget battle between the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf.

Senate Approves Measure to Legalize Medical Marijuana Use

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions cleared the state Senate last week and is now before the state House of Representatives. A spokesman for the House Republican Caucus said there is no timetable for considering the bill.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Cannot Allow Technology to Outpace Ethics

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I often take my computer or tablet to a seminar or court. I get the password for the Internet. I obviously take notes, but I also check email during the seminar. Should I be doing this?


Limitations on Cross-Examination of Lay and Expert Witnesses

By Daniel E. Cummins |

The most important tool provided to a litigant to test the credibility of parties, witnesses and expert witnesses at trial, and thereby challenge the truth of the adversary's claims, is the right to conduct a thorough and cutting cross-examination.

David G. Mandelbaum

Doing Environmental Due Diligence for the Right Reasons

By David G. Mandelbaum |

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently decided motions in a case among successive owners of a property with an environmental problem. Her opinion in CSX Transportation v. 2712 Investors, Civil Action No. 14-7148 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 29, 2015), provides some useful reminders of very basic propositions about environmental due diligence in real estate transactions and the litigation that follows when things go wrong.

Dave Dambreville

Defining Terms of an Insurance Policy After 'Rourke'

By Dave Dambreville |

The language of an insurance policy must be clear and specific in order to effectuate the intent of the insurer and insured. Failure to sufficiently define key terms and conditions of a policy in a plain and unambiguous way can have the effect of broadening the scope of coverage of the insurance policy. For best practices, insurers should be advised to specifically define each term that may have an impact on the scope of coverage of their policies.

Justices Consider Disclosure of Subcontractor Rates

By Lizzy McLellan |

As Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices took up an issue on health care rates and the Right-to-Know Law during oral arguments in Harrisburg last week, they eyed the use of "middlemen" for government functions, specifically the extent to which records of contracts and subcontracts should be publicly available.