News

Pennsylvania Law Weekly News

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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?

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?

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Oct. 7, 2014 - Keith R. Mason Made Partner of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti

Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti elected Keith R. Mason as a partner in its Pittsburgh office.

verdicts and settlements

Adderall Maker Settles Whistleblower Suit

By Saranac Hale Spencer |

The maker of Adderall, Pennsylvania-based Shire Pharmaceuticals, has settled a whistleblower suit for $56.5 million in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

verdicts and settlements

Allstate Settles Accident-Related Bad-Faith Claim

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

A bad-faith suit against Allstate Insurance Co. stemming from an auto-accident case that produced a $19.1 million verdict in Philadelphia has been settled for $22 million.

Legislative, Executive Action for Week of Sept. 29, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Sept. 29. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session Oct. 6.

Pa. Gets National Recognition for Reducing Recidivism

By John L. Kennedy |

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections recently received recognition from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Reentry Resource Center for its effort in reducing recidivism.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Can Practice Temporarily in Other Jurisdictions

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can I represent clients from other states?

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Avoid Overcommunication with Clients

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My practice has recently become unbearable. Clients text and email me constantly. Sometimes I think my entire day is spent texting and emailing. It has gotten to the point that I don't want to practice law anymore. What, ethically, can I do?

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Advising Clients of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction

By Matthew T. Mangino |

Several years ago, the American Bar Association identified more than 38,000 penalties, called collateral consequences, that can impact an offender convicted of a crime long after that offender has completed his or her sentence.

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Hobby Lobby Demonstrates a Sharp Divide

By Clifford A. Rieders |

On a dreary Shabbat afternoon, I sat down and read the entirety of the much debated, applauded and excoriated Hobby Lobby Stores case. Since I support both freedom of religion and women's health issues, it occurred to me that I could read the brilliant opinions of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with complete objectivity.

Leonard Deutchman

Extraterritorial Searches for Electronically Stored Information

By Leonard Deutchman |

On Sept. 18, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, along with Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, or the LEADS Act, to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712, to, inter alia, require providers served with a search warrant to disclose the materials sought by a warrant "regardless of where such contents may be," if the account holder at issue is "a United States person" and such disclosure will not "violate the laws of a foreign country."

Pa.'s Maturing Energy Industry Leads to New Legal Work

By Max Mitchell |

As the energy industry in Pennsylvania has begun to mature, so has the legal industry supporting it, with more of the activity now centered on "midstream" work and litigation.

Supreme Court Adopts New Rules for MDJ Conduct

By Max Mitchell |

New rules that the state Supreme Court adopted governing the conduct of magisterial district judges should bring greater clarity regarding their conduct on and off the bench, and will bring the regulations more in line with the newly enacted Code of Judicial Conduct.

Mixed-Use Developers Need Not Spell Out Exact Plans for Project

By Gina Passarella |

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week that a local municipality could tentatively approve a mixed-use development—known as planned residential developments—without requiring immediate disclosure of the exact nature of the buildings planned for the project.

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Justices Decline Case on Liability Exception to Skylight Fall

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has declined to hear arguments over whether a roofer's suit against a building owner stemming from a fall through a rare, antique skylight should be allowed to proceed under exceptions to the premises liability law.

En Banc Superior Court Panel Extends Will Termination

By Max Mitchell |

References to a newly born grandchild that a decedent made in his 1930 will indicated that the proceeds from his trust must be distributed sometime in the future, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Sept. 30, 2014 - Malcolm L. MacGregor Elected PAJ President

Malcolm L. MacGregor, a trial attorney and founding partner of McDonald & MacGregor in Scranton, Pa., was elected the 46th president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice.

verdicts and settlements

Judge Awards Shareholders in Suit Over Company Sale

A Philadelphia judge has ruled in a shareholder suit that an advertising company's corporate officers were liable for accepting for themselves $12 million in proceeds from the company's sale, rather than distributing it.

verdicts and settlements

Man Allegedly Injured in Cop Car Settles with City

At about midnight on June 23, 2011, plaintiff James McKenna was at a bar in Philadelphia with his girlfriend, the plaintiff's pretrial memorandum said. McKenna attempted to purchase a drink for an acquaintance who was at the bar with defendant Jesse O'Shea, a police officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, the memo said. O'Shea told McKenna that "neither his company nor his offer to buy a drink was wanted," the memo said. O'Shea then identified himself as a police officer and demanded McKenna leave the bar.

Executive, Legislative Action for Week of Sept. 22, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

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

Bill Would Provide Standing in Gun-Ordinance Challenges

By John L. Kennedy |

The state House of Representatives amended legislation that would give any individual or group standing to challenge local gun-control ordinances.

Poll Shows No Gain for Corbett in Re-election Race

By John L. Kennedy |

The results of a new poll show Gov. Tom Corbett has made up little ground, if any, on Democratic challenger Tom Wolf in the gubernatorial race.

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Parameters of Showing Bias of Expert Witnesses

By Daniel E. Cummins |

A recent trend in personal injury matters has involved each litigant turning up the heat in their attempt to gather information to discredit the opposing party's medical expert and expose that witness as biased in favor of the offering party.

Jonathan W. Hugg

Independent Expenditures and Election Influence

By Jonathan W. Hugg |

It's election time, and our business clients should view this as an opportunity. Nowadays, any mundane business issue—from land development and taxation to product packaging and worker benefits—can mean dealing with local government, which usually means coping with predatory local politics.

Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder

The Great Tradeoff in Workers' Compensation Benefits

By Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder |

When Maryland introduced America's first workers' compensation statute in 1902, the rights of injured workers were on the verge of changing forever.

Riparian Buffers Would Be Optional Under Legislation

By John L. Kennedy |

The state House of Representatives approved a measure that would make optional riparian buffers and riparian forest buffers, which can minimize pollution from erosion.

Time Clock

Wage-and-Hour Claims on the Rise in Pennsylvania

By Max Mitchell |

Employment wage-and-hour and FLSA litigation have been booming on all three coasts of the United States, and Pennsylvania has not been immune to the uptick.

High Court Adopts Training Standards for Juvenile Masters

By Max Mitchell |

New rules ramping up the training and education requirements of masters in juvenile courts should help to bring some much-needed uniformity to the juvenile justice system, members of the legal community told the Law Weekly.

Mall Had Duty to Invitee for Carjacking Injuries

By Max Mitchell |

Evidence that a dangerous crime occurred anywhere in the Steamtown Mall parking garage provided a sufficient basis to dismiss the mall's argument that it had no duty to ensure the safety of a business invitee who was injured during an alleged carjacking attempt, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Justices to Mull Nonprofits' Bylaws, Use of Public Funds

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether an endorsement of a union president candidate by the nonprofit corporation that administers benefits for the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police was an improper use of public money and violated the group's articles of incorporation and bylaws.

Workers' Comp Coverage Denied for Holistic Massage Treatment

By Gina Passarella |

An injured worker cannot be compensated for the holistic Ayurvedic medical treatment she underwent in India because it was not done through the referral or under the supervision of a licensed Pennsylvania health care practitioner, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Sept. 23, 2014 - Mary H. Binker Joins Babst Calland

Mary H. Binker joined Babst Calland as an associate in the firm's business services and energy and natural resources groups.

verdicts and settlements

Allegheny Co. Jury Awards Brain-Injured Woman

By Max Mitchell |

An Allegheny County jury has awarded nearly $16 million to a woman who sustained a severe brain injury in an auto accident while on her way to the rehearsal dinner for her daughter's wedding.

verdicts and settlements

Defective Airbag Caused Paralysis, Plaintiff Claimed

By Max Mitchell |

According to the plaintiffs' pretrial memorandum, on Aug. 20, 2010, John Cancelleri, 83, retired, was driving a Mercury Sable south along Route 307 in Spring Brook Township, Pa., when a Ford Mustang traveling north made a left turn. The Mustang struck Cancelleri's vehicle in a head-on collision, the memo said. Cancelleri's vehicle was equipped with a driver's-side airbag, but it did not deploy.

Executive, Legislative Action for Week of Sept. 15, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Sept. 15. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 22.

Debt-Reduction Bills Lined Up for Final House Passage

By John L. Kennedy |

The state House of Representatives Finance Committee on Sept. 15 approved two bills that would cap and reduce the state's debt limit, one over objections of some Democrats on the committee who argued it would hamper the state's response to certain emergencies.

Democrats Critical of Pa.'s Line of Credit

By John L. Kennedy |

State Treasurer Rob McCord extended a $1.5 billion line of credit to Pennsylvania, though he and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale were critical of the need for it.

Sam Stretton

Judges Should Avoid Reimbursement 
for Bar Association Activities

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a county bar association pay the membership fees for the judges of its court of common pleas and magistrate judges who are also attorneys and also pay their costs for the various bar association social functions?

Kenneth Racowski

Split of Authority on Strict Liability and Implied Warranty Claims Resolved

By Kenneth L. Racowski |

Two federal district court decisions issued this summer have brought clarity to the question of whether Pennsylvania law bars strict liability and implied warranty claims against pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.

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Making the Clery Act a More Effective Crime-Reporting Tool

By Scott A. Coffina |

Safety on college campuses, particularly how schools prevent and respond to sexual assaults, has been a dominant issue in 2014.

Matthew B. Weisberg

The Law of Lawyering: Do We Treat Ourselves Differently?

By Matthew Weisberg |

In this column principally revolving around attorney civil liability, it is clear that the law of lawyering is unique. That is, a successful defense or prosecution of an action in legal malpractice or other form of attorney liability requires more than just a sophisticated understanding of the necessary elements of that cause of action (including the case-within-the-case) and how general procedural and substantive issues are practically applied.

Parties Spar Over Court's Role in Insurance Liquidation Process

By Max Mitchell |

An attorney representing the Pennsylvania insurance commissioner argued before the state Supreme Court that when considering a rehabilitator's plan to liquidate an insurance carrier, the courts should defer to the experts.

Justices Eye Counsel Fees as Loss Under UTPCPL

By Max Mitchell |

Allowing the costs associated with retaining counsel to count as an ascertainable loss under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law would lead to a "cottage industry" of "private attorneys general," an attorney representing a car rental company argued before the state Supreme Court in Philadelphia last week.

On-Air Critic of Lehigh DA Told to Preserve Records

By Max Mitchell |

A critic of the Lehigh County district attorney has been asked by a lawyer for the DA not to destroy documents related to statements the critic made on a talk radio program.

Involuntary Plaintiffs Are Subject to Counterclaims

By Max Mitchell |

A party joined in a case as an involuntary plaintiff is not immune to counterclaims brought by a defendant, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Lawyer Argues Before Justices That MRI Use Should Be Tax-Free

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

Counsel for a radiology practice argued before the state Supreme Court last week that medical equipment, including MRI and CT machines, software and the electricity used to power the equipment, qualify for the manufacturing exclusion under the Tax Reform Code.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Sept. 16, 2014 - Vertz Elected Secretary of PA Chapter of AAML

Divorce attorney Brian C. Vertz, partner of family law firm Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz, was elected secretary of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).

verdicts and settlements

Painter Claimed Intersection Accident Caused Brain Injury

By Max Mitchell |

On March 11, 2010, plaintiff Bruce Roemer, 54, a contractor-painter, was driving a pickup truck westward along Oxford Valley Road in Falls Township, when the side of his vehicle was struck by an SUV being driven along Trenton Road by Patricia Cattani, according to court documents. Cattani's vehicle was owned by Cattani's Beverages Inc., doing business as Cattani's US 1 Beer. The plaintiffs' memo said Roemer sustained fractures, back and neck soft-tissue injuries and permanent traumatic brain injury.

verdicts and settlements

Worker Fired Over Nerve Stimulator, EEOC Claimed

On July 23, 2012, a laborer, whose suit was filed on behalf of plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was hired by MPW Industrial Services Inc., a provider of industrial cleaning, facility management and labor support services, in Dravosburg, Pa.

Executive, Legislative Action for Week of Sept. 8, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

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

Study: Pa. Employee Pension Plan One of the Worst

By John L. Kennedy |

The Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System is one of the three most inequitable in the country, according to a recent study by the Washington-based Urban Institute.

Samuel Stretton

A Lawyer’s Firm Can Sometimes Represent an Opposing Party of a Potential Client

By Samuel C. Stretton |

A client came to my office on a domestic case and we met for an hour. The client then chose to hire someone else. Can my firm represent the spouse of that client?

Sam Stretton

The Rules in Judicial Campaigns are Still Strict

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am considering running for judicial office in Pennsylvania in 2015. Under the new Code of Judicial Conduct, what can I say or not say during the judicial campaign?

James R. Nixon Jr.

Are We on the Path to Custody Rights for Step-Parents?

By James R. Nixon Jr. |

Consider the following hypothetical scenario: Tom and Ann get married in their early twenties and have a child, Ben. Unfortunately, shortly after Ben is born, Tom and Ann get divorced and they agree to have a week on/week off shared physical custody schedule of Ben. Tom remarries Diane, who serves as an involved step-parent to Ben on the weeks when Ben is living in their household.

State Agencies Grapple With E-Discovery Process

By Max Mitchell |

When the state Supreme Court ordered the attorney general to produce discoverable documents in the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission corruption cases earlier this month, Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said that office still needs to review approximately 30 million subpoenaed electronic documents for privilege purposes before turning them over to the defendants.

Cross-Examining Hospital Expert Witnesses in Claims Regarding Employees

By Brandon Swartz |

Intuitively, one can appreciate that if an individual is otherwise inclined to harm another through bad behavior, having the cover of a job as a medical professional or medical support staff in a hospital seems like an opportunity to commit the perfect crime. By working in a hospital setting, the so-called bad actor would have two built-in advantages to execute his or her crimes.

Campaign's Legal Bills Top Justices' Argument Session

By Max Mitchell |

Whether or not Cozen O'Connor will be able to forgive the $450,000 in legal bills U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., racked up during a failed mayoral bid in 2007 is the highlight case on the docket for the state Supreme Court's oral argument session in Philadelphia this week.

Judge Uses Act 13 Ruling to Deny Drilling Project

By Max Mitchell |

Relying on the state Supreme Court's recent interpretation of Act 13, a Lycoming County judge has denied an energy company's bid to construct an oil and gas well pad in the county.

Registry Company Can Assign Mortgages, Superior Court Says

By Max Mitchell |

The state Superior Court has reaffirmed that the mortgage registry MERS has the authority to assign a mortgage.

Superior Court Says Application of UIM Rejection Is Unclear

By Max Mitchell |

Although the language of an insurance clause rejecting underinsured motorist coverage was legally sufficient, it failed to specify whether the cancellation applied to subsequent policies, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Superior Court Revives Malicious Prosecution Case

By P.J. D'annunzio |

The state Superior Court has revived a malicious prosecution suit brought by a couple that had been accused of stealing gasoline from a Schuylkill County minimart.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Sept. 9, 2014 - Reer Joins Babst Calland

Michael K. Reer joined Babst Calland as an associate in the firm's energy and natural resources and environmental services groups.

verdicts and settlements

Rear-ender Didn't Lead to Missed Work, Jury Finds

On April 23, 2012, plaintiff Kirsten Robinson, a nurse's aide in her mid-20s, was driving a sedan that was stopped on Montgomery Avenue at the intersection of Gay Street, in West Chester, when she was rear-ended by a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Ashlee Palmer.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Sides With Defense in Sidewalk Trip-and-Fall

By Max Mitchell |

According to a pretrial memorandum from the plaintiffs, 54-year-old plaintiff Debbie McAdams exited a taxicab at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue in the Italian Market in Philadelphia. As she walked on the sidewalk outside M&L Donuts, which was owned by defendants Michael Chan and Linda Ma Chan, McAdams, who was working as an assistant bank manager, tripped and fell. McAdams allegedly sustained a hand injury.

Executive, Legislative Action for Week of Sept. 1, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Sept. 1. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Legislation Would Decriminalize Out-of-State Liquor Purchases

By John L. Kennedy |

State Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, announced he will introduce legislation that would decriminalize the purchase of out-of-state wine and liquor.

Lawmaker Urges End to Minimum Sentencing Loophole

By John L. Kennedy |

State Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, said he is urging his colleagues to strengthen the Crimes Code in the wake of a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling that declared many of the state's mandatory minimum sentencing provisions unconstitutional.

Matthew B. Weisberg

Does Ongoing Representation Toll the Legal Mal Statute of Limitations?

By Matthew Weisberg |

Calculations of the statute of limitations for causes of action arising from attorney neglect are in flux.

Superior Court Strikes Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Drug Cases

By Matthew T. Mangino |

Last month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Newman, No. 1980 EDA 2012, ruled that the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence by a judge, not a jury, relating to the use of a gun in a drug transaction is unconstitutional.

David G. Mandelbaum and Kerri L. Barsh

Climate Adaptation: The Concrete Example of Floating Homes

By David G. Mandelbaum & Kerri L. Barsh |

Just recently, the press has reported on two examples of floating home projects motivated, at least in part, by demonstrating adaptation to sea-level rise.

Implied Warranty Doesn't Extend to Subsequent Home Buyers

By Max Mitchell |

Subsequent home buyers may not sue for breach of an implied warranty of habitability, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

pa map

Defendants May Now Have Easier Time Changing Venue in Pa.

By Max Mitchell |

The uphill battle defendants faced when trying to get their cases moved from a plaintiff's chosen venue has been leveled somewhat thanks to the state Supreme Court's decision last month in Bratic v. Rubendall, according to attorneys who spoke with the Law Weekly.

Justices Take Up Hospital's Liability for ER Doc's Acts

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear argument on whether a plaintiff may state a claim for vicarious liability against a hospital for the alleged conduct of an emergency room doctor by pointing out that she was part of an emergency response team and had not previously treated the patient.

Justices Won't Hear Case on Rights for Online Impersonators

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has declined to hear argument on whether online commenters have a constitutional right to falsely attribute nonsatirical postings to someone with direct connection to the subject matter.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Sept. 2, 2014 - Human Relations Appointment

Attorney Loren L. Speziale, a partner at Gross McGinley, was appointed to the Bethlehem Human Relations Commission.

verdicts and settlements

Defense Contractor Settles Following Collision in Kuwait

By Max Mitchell |

According to court documents, on Nov. 19, 2009, Brian Mark Patton, a 37-year-old Pennsylvania resident who worked as a corrections officer but was serving a tour of duty as a reservist for the U.S. Navy, was driving an SUV along a two-lane road in Kuwait with David Morgan, who was also a corrections officer serving a tour of duty, as passenger.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Sides With Defense in Treatment Center Slip-and-Fall

According to a pretrial memorandum from the plaintiffs, on Aug. 31, 2010, Robert Smith was treated at the renal department of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Legislative, Judicial Action for Week of Aug. 25, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and judicial action for the week of Aug. 25. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Pa. Municipal Pension Systems Strained, Auditor General Says

By John L. Kennedy |

Scranton's pension system is on a path to running out of funds in three to five years, according to an audit performed by the office of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Report: Kane Issued Administrative Subpoenas on Shale Players

By John L. Kennedy |

Attorney General Kathleen Kane has issued administrative subpoenas throughout the shale industry in Pennsylvania, according to a story published on Capitolwire.com.

Sam Stretton

Judges Must Report Misconduct to Uphold the Legal Profession's Integrity

By Samuel C. Stretton |

What are the responsibilities of a judicial officer to report another judge or lawyer for professional misconduct?

Will Sylianteng

Identifying and Preventing Scorched-Earth Litigation

By Will Sylianteng |

As attorneys, we would like to believe that we are members of a civilized and high-brow profession. And why shouldn't we? Our clients bicker, fight and can't stand each other. Then, they hire us to civilly negotiate their claims in their stead, and authorize us to take the case to trial only if those negotiations fail.

For Communicators, It's Back-to-School Season, Too

By Jeff Jubelirer |

It's back-to-school season, but it doesn't just have to be a time of wonderment and curiosity for students; it can also be a time when you as an attorney with communications responsibilities for your firm or organization can get geared up to learn new things.

Leonard Deutchman

Courts Recognize the Importance of Cooperation in E-Discovery

By Leonard Deutchman |

In Boston Scientific v. Lee, No. 1:13-cv-13156-DJC (N.D. Cal. August 4, 2014), the court addressed two areas of e-discovery of particular interest: the need for cooperation in conducting e-discovery successfully, and the digital forensic investigative steps frequently taken when a high-level employee leaves a company to start or join a rival and is suspected of taking with him or her important intellectual property—what I refer to as "departing employee triage," or DET.

Health Insurer's 'Quality of Care' Review Discoverable

By Max Mitchell |

A quality-of-care review conducted by a plaintiff's health insurance carrier to evaluate an orthopedic surgeon in a medical malpractice action will not be barred from discovery under the Peer Review Protection Act, a trial court judge has ruled.

Desert traverse

Auto Accident in Kuwait Leads to Jurisdictional Dispute

By Max Mitchell |

When Virginia resident Morgan Lee Hanks' Mitsubishi Pajero collided with the Dodge Durango driven by Pennsylvania native Brian Mark Patton, who died in the accident, the ensuing motor vehicle litigation was anything but ordinary.

drilling

Justices to Eye Estoppel by Deed in Oil and Gas Cases

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether a lease entitles an oil and gas company to a 62-acre property, despite the fact that the lease was entered into when the landowners only had title to half the property and payment only covered 31 acres.

truck

Judicial Estoppel Won't Apply to Employment Arguments

By Max Mitchell |

A health care company was not barred from arguing in a workers' compensation action that a former employee was acting outside the course of his employment, even though the company had admitted in a previous civil action that the former employee had been acting in the course of his employment, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

construction

Complaints Are Separate From Liens, Superior Court Rules

By Saranac Hale Spencer |

Actions to compel judgment on mechanic's liens must be filed separately from the liens themselves, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled, affirming both case law on the issue and the trial court's opinion.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News, Aug. 26, 2014 - PUC Approves Appointment

Stevens & Lee shareholder Linda R. Evers' appointment to serve on the board of directors of the Sustainable Energy Fund was approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff Claimed Police Struck Him With Gun

On Dec. 1, 2010, plaintiff Anthony Kenney, a self-employed car detailer in his late 30s, was driving on Federal Street in the North Side of Pittsburgh, when he turned onto Lafayette Avenue and was pulled over by an unmarked police car.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff Claimed Railing Unhinged, Caused Fall

On March 31, 2011, plaintiff Joseph Ragan, 31, an independent salesperson for third-party energy suppliers, was accessing his basement at 10031 Westbourne Place in Northeast Philadelphia. Ragan leased the property from Kathleen Dragoni and Thomas Garofolo III. Ragan alleged that as he descended the basement stairway, he grasped the wooden railing and in doing so it unhinged, which caused him to fall down the stairs, approximately 12 steps. Ragan claimed that he suffered a spine injury.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Aug. 18

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Aug. 18. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Health Department Updates Fracking Complaint Process

By John L. Kennedy |

The state Department of Health announced that it has updated its handling of complaints related to fracking in the Marcellus Shale region.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

PUC Appeals Decision Stripping Its Review Authority

By John L. Kennedy |

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission appealed a Commonwealth Court ruling that stripped it of its authority to review local government ordinances under the oil and gas law, Act 13 of 2012.

Sam Stretton

Is There Anything Unethical About Electronic Closings?

By Samuel C. Stretton |

In an electronic closing, the standard jury trial is flashed before the jurors exactly as the judge charges. All exhibits, particularly photos or videos, are displayed to the jury. The lawyer's comments are written and published to the jury. The lawyer speaks them, but many times is looking at a computer when doing so.

Timothy J. Horstmann

MSRB Proposes Relaxed Duties for Municipal Advisers

By Timothy J. Horstmann |

On July 23, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board issued Regulatory Notice 2014-12, requesting comment on its proposed revisions to Draft Rule G-42, concerning the standards of conduct and duties of municipal advisers. The MSRB's changes to the rule incorporate many of the comments previously received from the public, the effect of which would be to substantially relax the duties owed by municipal advisers to their municipal entity clients.

Blaine A. Lucas

Government Interest in Railroad Rights-of-Way

By Blaine A. Lucas and Alyssa E. Golfieri |

On March 10, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision in Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1257 (2013), addressing whether the federal government retains any interest in railroad rights-of-way that were created by the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, 43 U.S.C. § 934 et seq.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff Awarded Lost Profits in Patent Case

A company that was previously found to be in contempt of a federal judge's order to stop selling patent-infringing electrical wire connectors has been ordered to pay the plaintiff patent holder about $1.5 million in attorney fees after the parties could not reach an agreement on an appropriate amount.

Michael Joy, Robert Jochen and Steven Chadwick

Section 34.1 and the Rule of Apportionment

By Michael Joy, Robert Jochen & Steven Chadwick |

Section 34.1 of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Lease Act was enacted July 9, 2013, and has received heavy scrutiny since its enactment based on the misperception that it permits unfettered, "forced pooling" by oil and gas developers.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Aug. 19, 2014 - Family Law Section Appointment

Lawrence (Skip) Persick of Lamb McErlane was elected to the council of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's (PBA) family law section and to the section's rules committee.

PNC

Withheld Emails Lead to Dismissal of Case Against PNC Bank

By Saranac Hale Spencer |

Years of discovery delays and dodges have led to the dismissal of a case against PNC Bank as a sanction.

Attorney to Lose Driver's License Despite Breath-Test Consent

By Max Mitchell |

An attorney who declined to undergo a chemical test following his arrest for allegedly driving under the influence will still lose his driver's license for a year, even though he offered to alternatively take breathalyzer and urinalysis tests, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Recoupment of Benefits Doesn't Imply Financial Hardship

By Max Mitchell |

The city of Pittsburgh's failure to show that reducing a fire captain's workers' compensation benefits would not cause financial hardship does not mean the city cannot reduce the benefits to recoup prior payments, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

verdicts and settlements

Man Claimed Brain Injury After Armored-Truck Collision

According to the pretrial memorandum of plaintiff Frank Jazlovietcki, he was driving northbound along Brookwood Drive near the intersection with Street Road in Bensalem on April 21, 2012, when the passenger-side door was struck by a vehicle owned by defendant Garda CL Atlantic Inc. and operated by defendant Kevin Moss. Moss was traveling west along Street Road. The memo said Moss entered under a red light, and that the Garda vehicle weighed approximately seven tons.

verdicts and settlements

Parties Settle After Inmate Gets Pepper-Sprayed

According to the plaintiff's amended complaint, on Jan. 7, 2011, plaintiff Ernest Soreth, 57, turned himself in at the Bucks County Correctional Facility, at the direction of his parole officer. After sitting in his cell for about 13 minutes, he felt severe chest pain and fell to the floor, the complaint said

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Aug. 11, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Aug. 11. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Bill Would Give DAs Power to Eye Contractor Wage Practices

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation introduced in the state Senate would give the state's district attorneys the authority to investigate construction employers' wage-and-hour practices, specifically complaints that some are misclassifying workers in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

House Measure Would Get Rid of Common Core Standards

By John L. Kennedy |

State Rep. Gordon Denlinger, R-Lancaster, introduced HB 2439, which would roll back Pennsylvania's version of Common Core educational standards adopted by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission last November.

PLW - People in the News - June 24, 2014

Hill Wallack partner Michael J. Shavel was named executive vice president of the Bucks County Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Retiring or Moving on Isn't Always Easy Under the Rules

By Daniel J. Siegel |

Do you want to retire and sell your firm? Do you want to slow down and let another attorney take over all the headaches associated with running your firm? Are you a partner in a megafirm who has decided that it's time to spend more time with the grandkids?

Larry E. Coben

Pennsylvania's Approach to Joint and Several Liability

By Larry E. Coben |

In an article published in the Law Weekly on July 21 titled "Deep Pockets Gone With Joint and Several Liability Repeal," Max Mitchell reviewed changes made in 2011 to the comparative negligence statute, 42 Pa. C. S. Section 7102 (2011), and interviewed several practicing attorneys who provided their views that these amendments may have dire consequences for economic recovery by consumer victims against multiple tortfeasors.

Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik

Pipeline Operators: Public Utility or Pipeline Futility?

By Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik |

The meteoric development of the Marcellus Shale is staggering. Since 2004, nearly 7,800 unconventional gas wells have been drilled throughout Pennsylvania. One of the stark realities of this unprecedented growth is that pipeline capacity has not kept pace. There are more active wells than active pipelines.

David G. Mandelbaum

Carbon Emissions, the Supreme Court and Business Opportunity

By David G. Mandelbaum |

The past few weeks have been full of developments in the regulation of greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions under the Clean Air Act. Like all rulemaking that matters, GHG regulation creates winners and losers.

Limited-Tort Filings Down in Pennsylvania, Attorneys Say

By Max Mitchell |

The tough economic decisions associated with taking limited-tort cases have led to a drop in the number of limited-tort filings, attorneys from around the state have told the Law Weekly.

Parties Argue Over Post-Accident Rollover Evidence

By Max Mitchell |

Plaintiffs in a rollover case should have been able to introduce evidence contesting a theory of injury that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration disavowed in 2009, the plaintiffs' attorney argued before an en banc Superior Court panel in Philadelphia last week.

Defense Bar Leaders to Focus on Involving Young Lawyers

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

Two recently installed presidents of defense bar organizations—the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel—said they will devote their terms to mentoring and recruiting younger members to their ranks.

Employer Not Liable for Assault on Restrained Scofflaw

By Max Mitchell |

A cab company will not be liable for a driver punching and kicking a passenger who was being restrained after trying to skip out on paying the fare, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Foreign Judgments Invalid Until Parties Invoke Recognition Act

By Max Mitchell |

Following federal case law interpreting two statutes on the enforcement of foreign and out-of-state judgments, the state Superior Court has ruled that a foreign judgment cannot be valid without first being recognized by state courts.

People in the News - Pa. Law Weekly - Aug. 12, 2014 - President's Advisory Council Appointment Made at College

Thomas J. Jennings, a partner in Hill Wallack's Yardley, Pa., office, was appointed to the President's Advisory Council at Delaware Valley College, an independent, interdisciplinary college in Doylestown, Pa.

verdicts and settlements

Woman's Collision With Verizon Truck Leads to Accord

A woman who sustained a traumatic brain injury after being rear-ended by a Verizon bucket truck driver—who was on a cellphone while driving—settled her suit against the company for $3 million.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Sides With Defense in Case Over Eye Injury

On April 30, 2012, plaintiff Patricia Frantz, an event specialist in her 70s, underwent a cataract phacoemulsification with insertion of an intraocular lens to her right eye, which was performed by ophthalmologist Dr. Ramakumar Gounder at The Waterfront Surgery Center in Homestead, Pa.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Aug. 4, 2014

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Aug. 4. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

State Police to Fight U.S. Justice Department Sex Bias Suit

By John L. Kennedy |

A recent federal court ruling that the FBI engaged in gender discrimination in its physical fitness requirements should help the Pennsylvania State Police defend its standards against a July 31 complaint by the Department of Justice, legal experts said.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Funding Vote for Philadelphia School District Called Off

By John L. Kennedy |

State House of Representatives leadership decided not to call members back to Harrisburg for a scheduled Aug. 4 session day to vote on legislation allowing Philadelphia to impose a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to raise money for the school district.

Sam Stretton

Attorneys Shouldn't Speak to Witnesses 
During Cross-Examination.

By Samuel C. Stretton |

If a party is on the witness stand, can the attorney who presents the witness speak to the witness when he or she begins cross-examination?

Jay Evans

Despite New Ruling, New Rule, Discovery of Expert Communication Remains Unclear

By Jay Evans |

We are essentially sitting in the waiting room regarding some important issues pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Anyone who reads my material with any regularity knows, for example, that I (and more than a few products liability colleagues) await a ruling on the application of the Restatement (Third) of Torts. And that's just one example of the issues on which we eagerly await resolution.

Ana C. Montalban and Jillian C. Bunyan

Incentives and Legal Risks for Green Building in Pennsylvania

By Ana C. Montalban and Jillian C. Bunyan |

This summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new proposal to reduce greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions by regulating, on a state-by-state basis, how and where electricity is generated. Under its Clean Power Plan, the EPA has proposed new emissions standards and guidelines for states to accomplish targeted reductions in GHG emissions.

Craig Robinson

Learning the Art of Concession

By Craig Robinson |

In the mostly uncertain world of personal injury law, one thing is for sure: There is no such thing as having seen it all. The seemingly straightforward rear-end motor vehicle accident will inevitably lead us on twists and turns we never expected. Our clients and other witnesses will never testify as expected. We will often be caught off-guard by the unknown crimen falsi conviction, the undisclosed prior injury or the neutral witness who contradicts our client's testimony.

Despite Scandals, Favoritism Not Widespread in Pa., Attorneys Say

By Max Mitchell |

Scandals involving judges allegedly engaging in favoritism rear up in the Pennsylvania court system every few years, but attorneys who spoke with the Law Weekly said judicial favoritism is not widespread.

'Early Accountability' Plea Program Altered Amid Ethical Concerns

By Max Mitchell |

Reducing backlog is a priority in all court systems, but a program aimed at efficiency in Franklin County had some attorneys crying foul that efforts to move cases along potentially threatened their clients' rights.

Carrier's Failure to Adjust Medical Costs Exhausts Benefits

By Max Mitchell |

An automobile insurance carrier's failure to adjust the cost of an insured's medical bills resulted in the premature exhaustion of her first-party benefits, a common pleas court judge has ruled in allowing her claim to go forward against the insurer.

Written Appearance Not Necessary for Change of Attorney

By Max Mitchell |

A filing that included an attorney's name and address was sufficient to give notice regarding a change of attorney, the state Superior Court has ruled.

insurance policy

Monroe County Bad-Faith Suit Over Annuity to Move Forward

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

A bad-faith suit against an insurance company can go forward, a Monroe County judge has ruled, despite the fact that the money the plaintiff claims is owed stems from an annuity and not an insurance policy.

PLW - People in the News - August 4, 2014

Hill Wallack partner Timothy J. Duffy was appointed to the executive committee of the Bucks County Republican Committee.

verdicts and settlements

Estate of Man Who Fell 10 Stories to His Death Settles

Representatives of the estate of a cellular infrastructure technician who died after falling 10 stories from a Philadelphia rooftop settled with several defendants for a total of $4.45 million.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Finds Against UIM Carrier in Rear-End Accident

According to the pretrial memorandum from plaintiff Charles Patterson, on Sept. 4, 2010, Patterson was driving a vehicle, with his wife, Annette Patterson, as a passenger, near Gilbert and Rugby streets in Philadelphia.

Recent Action

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of July 28. The state House of Representatives is scheduled to return to session Aug. 4; both houses of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to session Sept. 15.

Legislation Aims to Remove 'Politics' From Doctor-Patient Relationship

Democrats in both houses of the General Assembly have simultaneously introduced legislation, called the "Patient Trust Act," that would prohibit the enforcement of laws that require health care professionals to provide patients with medically inaccurate information that advances a legislative or political agenda.

Bill Requires PLCB to ShowTaxpayer Dollars Paid for Ads

The state's monopoly on liquor sales faces an unrelenting challenge from some quarters in the General Assembly. In the latest round, state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, introduced legislation, HB 2426, that would require the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to make it clear that their liquor advertisements are funded with taxpayer dollars.

Samuel Stretton

Judges shouldn't express to jurors their opinions on a verdict

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I tried a jury trial recently and it is clear the judge radically disagreed with the jury's decision based on the judge's demeanor and comments. Is that a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct?

Matthew T. Mangino

In Wake of Rulings, Committee to Review Juvenile Life Sentences

By Matthew T. Mangino |

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles unconstitutional, should not be applied retroactively.

Leonard Deutchman

Supreme Court Misses a Chance to Address Difficult Privacy Question

By Leonard Deutchman |

In Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, 189 L.Ed. 2d 430 (2014), a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that the warrantless searches of the contents of cellphones seized from a person were not proper as searches incident to arrest and so, absent exigent circumstances particular to the matter, they were a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Dave Dambreville

The Inconvenient Truth About Forum Non Conveniens

By Dave Dambreville |

As our nation's economy continues to grow globally, lawsuits involving international parties will rise accordingly. For the courts of Pennsylvania, this means that more cases will require an inquiry as to whether a foreign forum is more appropriate for hearing a given case.

Signing a contract

Quantum Meruit Claim Not Defeated by Defect in Contract

By Max Mitchell |

Despite a contract that fails to comply with a consumer protection law, a contractor will still be able to pursue a claim under the quasi-contract theories of quantum meruit, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

will

Register of Wills Liable Despite Governmental Immunity

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has held that governmental immunity protections do not extend to a register of wills for alleged violations of bonding requirements.

insurance policy

Liquidation Ends Insurance Coverage Regardless of Policy Terms

By Max Mitchell |

An insurance company in liquidation does not need to continue paying out on a policy that was terminated before liquidation proceedings commenced but had provided for ongoing coverage, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

house arrest

Justices Take Up Unemployment Case for Man on House Arrest

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear argument on whether a man under house arrest is eligible for unemployment benefits.

PLW- People in the News - July 29, 2014

Christina D. Frangiosa was appointed vice chair of the trademarks and unfair competition division of the American Bar Association's section of intellectual property law (ABA-IPL) for the upcoming 2014-15 membership year.

verdicts and settlements

Parties Settle Truck-Stop Pay Card Dispute

A Pennsylvania federal judge granted final approval of a $130 million settlement in an antitrust suit between independent truck-stop owners on one side and trucker fleet payment card company Comdata Inc. and three national truck-stop chains on the other.

verdicts and settlements

Arbitrator Awards Plaintiffs for UIM, Bad Faith and Fees

According to the plaintiff's complaint, on Nov. 16, 2010, plaintiff Elsie Carraghan was driving a sedan south along Kings Highway in Lehigh County when her vehicle was struck head-on by a vehicle being driven by Kim Coleen Ruppert.

Recent Action

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 21. Members of the state House of Representatives are set to return Aug. 4; state Senate members are set to return Sept. 15.

Public Pensions Become Political Battleground

Moody's Investors Service lowered Pennsylvania's credit rating last week, and the news became instant fodder for both Democrats and Republicans in a gubernatorial election year.

No New Drilling Leases Until Court Decision Rendered

The Corbett administration has agreed not to sign any new natural gas leases for drilling on state land until a ruling on the use of the funds raised through the leases is rendered by the Commonwealth Court.

Samuel Stretton

Judges are limited when writing letters of recommendation

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can judges provide letters of reference for clerks under the new Code of Conduct?

Samuel Stretton

New rules allow limited exceptions to the prohibition on judicial ex parte communications

By Samuel C. Stretton |

Can a judge consult with another judge or expert when deciding a case?

Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder

Supplementing Workers' Comp With Social Security Disability

By Samuel H. Pond and Andrew F. Ruder |

Devastating work injuries are impossible to predict, leaving disabled employees anxiously searching for affordable medical care and financial assistance during the time they are out of work.

Steven Silver

Anticipated Changes to Pennsylvania Gaming Put on Back Burner

By Steve Silver |

Lately, the words "balanced budget" in Pennsylvania resemble more of a punch line to a joke than a realistic goal.

empty pockets

Deep Pockets Gone With Joint and Several Liability Repeal

By Max Mitchell |

Attorney John W. Zotter of Zimmer Kunz in Pittsburgh represented two trucking companies that were involved in separate multivehicle accidents in the summer of 2011.

Ex-Solicitor Must Repay Arbitrator Fee to County

By Max Mitchell |

Money a county paid its solicitor for acting as interest arbitrator in a labor dispute will have to be repaid to the county, despite a resolution the county adopted agreeing to pay the attorney for the work, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

zoning

Justices Take Up Deadline for Post-Enactment Appeals

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear argument on whether a defective notice of enactment of a zoning and land development ordinance triggered a 30-day window for filing appeals regarding defects that occurred when the ordinances were initially passed by the zoning board.

Woof

Biteless Prior Incident Enough for Punitives Claim in Dog-Bite Case

By Max Mitchell |

A common pleas court judge will allow a plaintiff in a dog-bite case to pursue punitive damages based on alleged notice of vicious propensity, even though the dogs had not bitten anyone before the incident.

Three children in silhouette

Victim Interviewer's Notes Might Be Discoverable, Court Rules

By Gina Passarella |

The state Superior Court has ordered a more thorough review by the trial court of whether a center that interviewed child sex-abuse victims could be shielded from having to turn over related documents in the criminal trial of the alleged abuser.

PLW - People in the News - July 22, 2014

Hill Wallack partner Denise M. Bowman was named chair of the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors for the 2014-15 term.

verdicts and settlements

Soccer Prospect Awarded for Botched Bowel Procedure

A college soccer star once weeks away from going to Colombia on a contract to play professionally was awarded $3.34 million for injuries he suffered after a botched groin surgery that put an end to his athletic career

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Plaintiff In Admitted Rear-End Collision

According to the plaintiff's pretrial memorandum, Michael B. Clark, who was 66 at the time and had formerly worked as a lineman at PPL, was driving east along Blakeslee Boulevard when he stopped to make a left turn onto Mall Lane in Mahoning Township, Pa.

Recent Action

Following is a listing of executive, legislative and judiciary action for the week of July 14. The state House of Representatives is set to return to session Aug. 4; the state Senate is set to return Sept. 15.

Corbett Ramps Up Re-election Efforts

Gov. Tom Corbett began a statewide tour and with it his re-election campaign, immediately after signing the state budget July 10.

Legislators Consider Possible Response to Funding Cuts

Legislative leaders are mulling their options after Gov. Tom Corbett wiped $65 million from programs and other spending earmarked for use by the General Assembly when he signed the state budget.

Samuel Stretton

The proposed judicial conduct rules would impact judges’ ability to serve as executor

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am a district judge who also has a law practice. Can I still continue to serve as an executor?

Kenneth L. Racowski

A Primer on Pennsylvania Annuity Case Law

By Kenneth L. Racowsk |

Annuities have historically been a popular retirement investment option. In particular, variable annuities, which combine an insurance policy and mutual funds, can provide tax-deferred retirement savings, upside growth with downside protection and guaranteed income throughout the holder's lifetime.

Scott A. Coffina

President's Recess Appointments Struck Down in Noel Canning

By Scott A. Coffina |

Last month's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting President Obama's January 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board came at a delicate time, with a debate raging between the president and Congress over the limits of the president's executive authority.

J. Alexander Hershey

Supreme Court Diminishes the Role of Prudential Standing

By J. Alexander Hershey |

The U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Lexmark International v. Static Control Components, 134 S. Ct. 1377 (March 25, 2014), is noteworthy for resolving a split among the circuit courts.

gavel, scale, and law book

Conduct Board Increasingly Focusing on Demeanor Violations

By Max Mitchell |

Misconduct charges that the Judicial Conduct Board brought against an Erie County judge last week highlight a growing trend of judges facing increasing scrutiny for demeanor- and behavior-based offenses, lawyers familiar with the disciplinary system said.

Justices to Mull Ex Post Facto Sentencing Guidelines

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has taken up the issue of whether a defendant should be sentenced under guidelines in place when a victim was attacked or when the victim died from the injuries nearly 15 years later.

Doctor's Claim Against Act 13 Confidentiality Dismissed

By Max Mitchell |

A doctor's claim that sections of Act 13 regarding the confidentiality of chemical compositions of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing hindered his ability to treat patients has been dismissed.

Imposing Defense Costs on Offender Off-Limits in Sentencing

By Max Mitchell |

Trial courts may not require criminal defendants to pay for their use of a public defender as part of their sentence, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Justices Won't Hear Venue Dispute in Legal Mal, Bad-Faith Suit

By Max Mitchell |

The state Supreme Court has declined to hear argument in a case that raised the issue of whether a firm's reference on its website to accommodating clients in Philadelphia and the surrounding area showed that the firm had enough business in the city to keep a legal malpractice case in Philadelphia courts.

PLW - People in the News - July 15, 2014

Andrew H. Ralston Jr., a partner at Gross McGinley, was appointed to the board of directors of the Hamilton District Main Street Program, a community development project of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce.

verdicts and settlements

Man Awarded After Hand Was Crushed In Printing Press

On Oct. 24, 2011, plaintiff Phillip R. Smith, who was in his 50s, finished greasing an offset printing press that had been designed, manufactured and installed by Manugraph Dauphin Graphic Machines, according to the plaintiff's pretrial memorandum

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards No Damages In Dragonetti Action

Blank Rome and longtime client St. Luke's University Health Network were each found by a jury to have improperly sued family members of two former patients who had sued the hospital over allegations a former nurse killed their loved ones, but the firm and health system were not assessed any damages.

Recent Action

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of July 7. Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to Harrisburg on Sept. 15.

Fate of Philadelphia Cigarette Tax Uncertain

It's unclear if state House of Representatives members will return to Harrisburg before the scheduled date of Sept. 15 to vote on legislation that would allow Philadelphia to enact a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The city needs the money to fund its schools, which may not open on time without the additional funding.

Drug Overdose Immunity Bill in Limbo

One of the bills overlooked in the frenzy of the final budget approval in Harrisburg would provide immunity for those who witness a drug overdose and seek emergency help.

Samuel Stretton

Lawyers should not be disqualified based on the appearance of impropriety

By Samuel C. Stretton |

It seems that more and more disqualification motions are being filed against lawyers as part of litigation strategy or tactics. Is there a problem, and why is this occurring? Should there be a better system to evaluate these disqualification motions?

Charlotte E. Thomas

Community Colleges Not Subject to UTPCPL

By Charlotte E. Thomas |

It only stands to reason, yet it took almost 12 years and repeated appeals for the final determination by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Meyer v. Community College of Beaver County, No. 22 WAP 2012, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 1524 (Pa. June 16, 2014), ruling that Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law does not apply to community colleges as political subdivision agencies.

Robert J. Burnett

Pa. Should Clarify Its Approach to Post-Production Costs

By Robert J. Burnett |

Throughout Pennsylvania, landowners are continuing to experience sticker shock when they open their royalty statements related to gas drilling.

Ted Bosquez and Matthew Sepp

Navigating the Pitfalls of Parallel Challenges to Shale Development

By Ted Bosquez and Matthew Sepp |

The growth of the domestic shale industry has presented new challenges and opportunities. Despite the industry's consistent pursuit of environmental stewardship, it has faced lawsuits on multiple fronts—both in courts and before state administrative environmental appeal bodies.

Push From Community Helps Reverse Proposal to Cut Judges

By Max Mitchell |

Educating state senators about the possible impact of slashing state judgeships was a key factor in persuading legislators to reject making the cuts, lawyers and state Senate officials said.

Oil and Gas Rights Included in 'Surface Soil' Deed

By Max Mitchell |

A deed that conveyed "surface" and "surface soil" and explicitly reserved the rights to any coal found on the property still conveyed the subsurface oil and gas rights to the deed holder, the state Superior Court has ruled.