Pennsylvania Law Weekly News

Judges Hint at Broader Rule on Workplace Violence

By Lizzy McLellan |

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

Increased Oil and Gas Regulations Expected Under Wolf

By Max Mitchell |

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

vote sign

Justices: Paperless Voting Machines Satisfy Election Code

By Lizzy McLellan |

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

Despite Plaintiff's Reckless Driving, Truck Suit Revived

By Max Mitchell |

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

Missing Housekeeping Record Creates Issue of Fact

By Lizzy McLellan |

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

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

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

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiff Awarded in First Philadelphia Risperdal Trial

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

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

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Verdict To Plaintiff in Trip-and-Fall Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Philadelphia jury has found a property owner entirely negligent in a trip-and-fall case, awarding $66,000 to the plaintiff for medical expenses related to an ankle injury.

Legislative and Executive Action for Week of Feb. 23

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and executive action for the week of Feb. 23. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session March 2.

Bill Targets Lawmakers' Involvement in Nonprofits

By John L. Kennedy |

Legislation that would codify a ban on state lawmakers' involvement in nonprofits funded by state appropriations cleared the state House of Representatives with only one negative vote.

Senate-Approved Bill Would Require ID to Receive Benefits

By John L. Kennedy |

The state Senate passed SB 9, which would require those applying for benefits such as Medicaid and unemployment compensation to show identification proving they are legal residents of the United States before receiving the benefits.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Never Give Up the Right to Practice in Certain Areas

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing a client in a very difficult matter against a major corporation. A very decent settlement proposal has been made, which I want to recommend to the client, but it requires me to agree not to handle any more of these cases. Can I agree to that?

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Municipalities' Ability to Regulate Noncommercial Speech

By Krista-Ann M. Staley and Alyssa E. Golfieri |

On Jan. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 707 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2013), which upheld the constitutionality of an Arizona town's sign ordinance.

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First Ladies Facing Ethics Complaints

By Scott A. Coffina |

If you think the ethics laws applicable to some state governors might be vague or overly forgiving, try applying them to first ladies.

Leonard Deutchman

What Makes Text Messages Not Hearsay?

By Leonard Deutchman |

In Commonwealth v. Koch, No. 45 MAP 2012 (S.Ct. Dec. 30, 2014), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave us a present in the form of an affirmance of a Superior Court panel decision that reversed the trial court's denial of the exclusion of text messages on the grounds that they were hearsay.

Moratorium: Death Penalty's Demise or Bump in the Road?

By Lizzy McLellan |

While the long-term impact of Gov. Tom Wolf's moratorium on the death penalty is unknown, there appears to be some immediate legal and political fallout.

Failed Suit Won't Extend Oil and Gas Lease

By Max Mitchell |

Unsuccessfully challenging an oil and gas lease should not extend the terms of the lease for the duration of the litigation, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

Dauphin County Aims for One Judge Per Family

By Lizzy McLellan |

Culminating a multi-decade effort, Dauphin County has opened a designated family court, with three judges dedicated to family court cases.

Custody of child

Transcription Order Not Sufficient in Custody Decisions

By Lizzy McLellan |

A custody order must be entered as a separate order or separate section of a written opinion in order to be enforced, the Superior Court has ruled.

Private Subjects of Public Record Requests Must Get Notice

By Max Mitchell |

Before an agency can give out personal address information requested under the Right-to-Know Law, the individual must first be notified of the request and given a chance to object, a divided en banc Commonwealth Court panel has ruled.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Feb. 24, 2015 - McErlane Receives 2014 President's Award

James E. McErlane, senior partner and founding member at Lamb McErlane, received the 2014 President's Award from West Chester University and was also recognized by the March of Dimes for over 20 years of service.

verdicts and settlements

Retired Teacher Gets Arbitration Award for Car Accident Injuries

By Lizzy McLellan |

A three-person arbitration panel has awarded $700,000 to Diane and David Richman with regard to an underinsured motorist claim they brought against Liberty International Underwriters.

verdicts and settlements

Postal Worker Awarded in Mail-Truck Collision

On Nov. 3, 2011, plaintiff Sharon Orenshaw, 59, a U.S. Postal Service worker, was driving a mail truck on Route 52 in Kennett Township. While she was stopped at a mailbox, the front of her truck was hit by a Lexus sedan driven by Edward Cluff, who was traveling in the opposite direction. Orenshaw claimed multiple injuries to her neck.

Legislative, Executive and Judiciary Action for Week of Feb. 16

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative, executive and judiciary action for the week of Feb. 16. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session Feb. 23.

Senate OKs Measure Over Power to Define 'Charities'

By John L. Kennedy |

The state Senate voted on party lines to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare the General Assembly, not the judiciary, has the authority to determine what constitutes a purely public charity.

Liquor Privatization Bill Appears Poised for House Approval

By John L. Kennedy |

The state House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on legislation on Feb. 26 that would dismantle the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and privatize liquor sales.

Sam Stretton

A Proposed Rule Would Be Unfair to Third Circuit Practitioners

By Samuel C. Stretton |

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has issued revised Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement. Are there any major changes?

James M. Beck

Doctrinal Conservatism and Appellate Courts

By James M. Beck |

Sooner or later, any appellate practitioner will be faced with the need to advocate, or oppose, adoption of a novel cause of action, theory of liability or affirmative defense. In both the Pennsylvania and federal court systems, appellate courts profess a reluctance to entertain novel arguments, sometimes even as they are, in fact, doing so.

Why Higher Ed Is Being Hit With Defamation Suits

By Kathryn Goldstein Legge and Christine E. Weller |

"I'm rubber and you're glue" might have been a valid defense in kindergarten, but higher educational institutions across the country are quickly finding that claims of defamation are no longer quite so easily dismissed.

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Frozen Embryos Can Be a Point of Contention in Divorce Cases

By Lynne Gold-Bikin |

Once a couple makes the decision to divorce, in addition to such things as custody and support issues, often the most complex area is dealing with division of the marital assets. Sorting out these assets first involves listing and valuing them. Some of those assets may be unusual, but rarely as unusual as fertilized eggs.

Judicial Retirement Age Likely to Change, but When?

By Lizzy McLellan |

Changing the mandatory retirement age for Pennsylvania judges from 70 to 75 may not be controversial among voters, observers said, but it could greatly impact the makeup of the courts in coming years.

penn state

NCAA-Penn State Settlement Turned on Court Ruling

By Max Mitchell |

When an en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court ruled in April 2014 that the consent decree the NCAA levied against Penn State, which included a $60 million penalty, might not have been properly entered into, the lead attorney in the case knew he was about to be slammed with discovery demands.

Township Need Not Recreate Deleted Phone Data

By Max Mitchell |

A township does not need to hire a forensic expert to recreate deleted phone records to satisfy a right-to-know request, the Commonwealth Court has ruled.

Prison Visitation Phones Fall Under Wiretap Act Exception

By Lizzy McLellan |

Recorded conversations between an inmate and visitor in a correctional facility over a telephone-like device can be used as evidence in a criminal case under the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Ex-Rep. Veon's Conflict-of-Interest Conviction Affirmed

By Lizzy McLellan |

A section of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act barring conflict of interest is not unconstitutionally vague on its face, the Superior Court has decided, and the statute allows for the state to be a victim for restitution purposes.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Feb. 17, 2015 - Samuel E. Cohen Elected Senior Counsel to Gross McGinley

Samuel E. Cohen, an attorney with Gross McGinley, was elected to senior counsel for the firm.

verdicts and settlements

Plaintiffs Settle Following Tractor-Trailer Pile-up

By Max Mitchell |

According to the plaintiffs' complaint, on Jan. 2, 2012, Fernando Olivas was driving a tractor-trailer owned by J.M. Leasing eastbound along I-80 in Jefferson County, when he passed a slow-moving vehicle in the right lane. The weather had recently become snowy, the complaint said, and, as Olivas attempted to move back into the right lane after passing the slow-moving vehicle, he lost control of the tractor-trailer, which jack-knifed.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Decides Both Drivers Negligent in UM Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Susquehanna County jury has entered a defense verdict in an uninsured motorist case where it found both drivers negligent.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Legislative and Judicial Action for Week of Feb. 9, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and judiciary action for the week of Feb. 9. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session Feb. 23.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Wolf, Lawmakers Differ on Closing Budget Gap

By John L. Kennedy |

Gov. Tom Wolf and leaders in the state House of Representatives have unveiled two completely different plans to close a budget hole in the state's general fund. They will have until the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to reach some sort of compromise.

Harrisburg Capitol Building

Legislative and Judicial Action for Week of Feb. 9, 2015

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of legislative and judiciary action for the week of Feb. 9. Members of the General Assembly are set to return to session Feb. 23.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Cannot Directly Invest Client Funds

By Samuel C. Stretton |

I am representing an estate. Substantial money has come into the estate account. I am suggesting, because there will be some delay in distribution, that the money be invested. Can I ethically do that?

Jay Evans

The Difficulty of Consistent Application of Supreme Court Precedent

By Jay Evans |

It's been three months since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Tincher v. Omega Flex, 104 A.3d 328, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 3031 (Pa. 2014), and although the number of articles covering the ruling are legion, the legal community has yet to feel the decision's full impact.

Will Sylianteng

District Court Sanctions Attorney for Ghostwriting Expert Report

By Will Sylianteng |

It has been less than one year since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court codified, via amendment of the civil practice rules, its holding in Barrick v. Holy Spirit Hospital, 91 A.3d 680 (Pa.2014). In Barrick, an evenly divided court affirmed a ruling issued by an en banc panel of the Superior Court, and held that all communications between an attorney and his testifying expert were shielded from discovery by the attorney work-product doctrine.

David G. Mandelbaum

When Can the Government Access Contaminated Sites?

By David G. Mandelbaum |

Regulators need access to investigate and clean up property contaminated with hazardous substances. That need to get onto property does not respect property lines or who may happen to own or occupy that land. Moreover, if regulators want responsible parties to do the investigation or the cleanup at an "enforcement lead" site, then private parties may need access.

vote sign

No Electoral Edge Seen for Stevens as Sitting Justice

By Lizzy McLellan |

Despite being the rare justice serving an interim term to run for an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, few see Justice Correale F. Stevens as having a built-in advantage heading into the Republican primary, let alone the general election, bucking a popular perception among some legal watchers.

Bar Ratings and Party Endorsements Don't Always Align

By Max Mitchell |

When the Pennsylvania Bar Association released its ratings of potential candidates for the state Supreme Court and two of the top GOP contenders were not mentioned, many were left wondering if politics were at play.

gavel

Lateness of Reconsideration Order Dooms Challenge to Dismissal

By Lizzy McLellan |

A trial court cannot grant a motion to reconsider an order more than 30 days after it was filed, absent special circumstances, the Superior Court has ruled.

Unnamed Would-Be Beneficiaries Have Standing to Sue

By Max Mitchell |

Even though an amendment to a trust naming several people as beneficiaries was never signed by the decedent, the would-be beneficiaries will have standing to sue for breach of contract the attorney who prepared the amendment, the state Superior Court has ruled.

Supreme Court to Eye 1806 Law in Oil and Gas Case

By Lizzy McLellan |

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case in which the heirs to a Centre County property were stripped of their oil and gas rights because of an "arcane" and outdated tax assessment law.

Pa. Law Weekly - People in the News - Feb. 10, 2015 - Farrell Named Partner of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein

Amee S. Farrell was named a partner of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein in Blue Bell, Pa.

verdicts and settlements

Jury Awards Delco Man Blinded From Prolonged Surgery

By P.J. D'Annunzio |

A man who lost his sight because of a prolonged back surgery has been awarded $21.8 million in his medical malpractice case by a Delaware County jury.

verdicts and settlements

Second Trial Yields Verdict for Deceased Patient's Daughter

By Lizzy McLellan |

A Philadelphia jury has awarded a verdict of more than $1.5 million to the administratrix of Dorothy Johnson's estate, finding that St. Joseph's Hospital's breach of corporate duties led to Johnson's death.

Executive and Legislative Action for Week of Feb. 2

By John L. Kennedy |

Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of Feb. 2. Members of the General Assembly were scheduled to return to session the week of Feb. 9.

Lawmakers Say Anti-Cyberbullying Bill Needs Fine-Tuning

By John L. Kennedy |

All the members of the state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted to move an anti-cyberbullying bill to the House floor, but Republicans and Democrats alike were concerned about the bill's possible vagueness.

Legislation Would Overhaul School Construction Funding

By John L. Kennedy |

The state reimbursement process to school districts for building projects would be overhauled under legislation approved by the state House of Representatives Education Committee.

Sam Stretton

Lawyers Should Keep Clients Informed of All Settlement Offers

By Samuel C. Stretton |

My client has given me general settlement authority within a certain range and I have been negotiating with the other side. Do I have a duty to tell the client every back-and-forth offer and rejection?

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Improve Your Practice, Reduce Stress and Prevent Nightmares

By Daniel E. Cummins |

We are all getting older, and possibly more forgetful. Here, then, is a list of some things to remember to improve your practice, reduce stress and prevent late-night terrors.

Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik

Not All Is Quiet on the Quiet Title Front

By Robert J. Burnett and Nathan A. Kostelnik |

A decision from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania should serve as an important reminder for landowners who, in the midst of ongoing oil and gas development, may resort to the courts to confirm their ownership interests.

Craig Robinson

Recreational Liability: A Steep Mountain to Climb for Plaintiffs

By Craig Robinson |

Despite the relatively dry but cold winter in the Delaware Valley, the myriad ski resorts in the Pocono Mountains are surely thriving. You cannot drive on I-95 without seeing a billboard or hearing an advertisement on the radio inviting you to come up to the mountains to take part in snow sports and activities.