This Week's Cases

Powell v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, PICS Case No. 17-0527 (Pa. March 28, 2017) Dougherty, J., Baer, J. (concurring and dissenting), Todd, J. (dissenting) (28 pages).

Commonwealth Court erred in holding that the unemployment compensation referee and the UCBR could not apply the terms of disciplinary enforcement rule 217 and the Supreme Court's suspension orders in its tribunals. Reversed in part and affirmed in part.

Coulter v. Lindsay, PICS Case No. 17-0574 (Pa. Super. April 7, 2017) per curiam, (17 pages).

Trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's recusal motion and in dismissing appellant's complaint under Pa.R.C.P. 233.1 because rule 233.1 was not void for vagueness and her continued vexatious conduct in filing more than 80 complaints in multiple courts over the same issues warranted the award of attorney fees and the issuance of a filing injunction. Affirmed.

Blackburn v. King Inv. Grp., LLC, PICS Case No. 17-0576 (Pa. Super. April 5, 2017) Ransom, J. (8 pages).

Appeal from a modification of confessed judgment where appellant failed to timely appeal from prior appealable interlocutory order denying petition to strike/open judgment. Appeal quashed.

Commonwealth v. Lukach, PICS Case No. 17-0578 (Pa. Super. April 11, 2017) Ransom, J. (20 pages).

Trial court properly suppressed confession where defendant's indication that he did not want to talk to police was a sufficiently unambiguous invocation of his right to remain silent. Order of the trial court affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Baldwin, PICS Case No. 17-0572 (Pa. Super. April 10, 2017) Fitzgerald, J. (10 pages).

Common Pleas Court properly held that Municipal Court abused its discretion in granting defense counsel's motion for a mistrial because the witness's testimony did not violate the suppression order since the witness testified to evidence that preceded police involvement and the commonwealth did not commit any misconduct in eliciting that testimony. Affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Andrews, PICS Case No. 17-0571 (Pa. Super. April 7, 2017) Solano, J. (13 pages).

PCRA court erred in dismissing appellant's petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to advise him to plead guilty but mentally ill, because appellant did not assert an insanity defense since a defendant did not need to assert an insanity defense before entering a plea of guilty but mentally ill. Order vacated.

Commonwealth v. Manuel, PICS Case No. 17-0573 (Pa. Super. April 7, 2017) Lazarus, J. (28 pages).

Trial court erred in denying motion to suppress drug evidence found in search of house because the affidavit for the search warrant did not establish probable cause where it was based on a tip from a CI who alleged to have been in the house and seen the marijuana but had previously provided information leading to only one arrest that had not yet resulted in a conviction and the police performed no investigation to corroborate or establish the reliability of the tip. Reversed.

Commonwealth v. Evans, PICS Case No. 17-0577 (Pa. Super. April 6, 2017) Dubow, J. (11 pages).

Evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for solicitation of witness intimidation where defendant merely sought to offer the victim witness a pecuniary benefit in exchange for her refusal to testify in an underlying trial and lacked intent to intimidate. Judgment of sentence vacated.

Michael v. Stock, PICS Case No. 17-0581 (Pa. Super. April 11, 2017) Solano, J. (30 pages).

Trial court erred in granting summary judgment to title insurer and holding that title insurance policy did not cover the lot at issue and in awarding summary judgment on appellant's bad-faith claim because there were material issues of fact where title insurer provided "real estate transactional services" and allegedly drafted the deed that allegedly covered only one of two lots and there was a dispute whether the reference in the policy to "County Parcel 4-18-28," which included both lots, was sufficient to include the second lot under policy coverage. Vacated.

Pergolese v. The Standard Fire Ins. Co., PICS Case No. 17-0582 (Pa. Super. April 11, 2017) Ford Elliott, J. (52 pages).

Insureds' purchase of a new vehicle added to their existing auto insurance policy by way of addition to the policy's declarations constituted a new "purchase" and not a replacement vehicle and thus insurer was required to obtain a new waiver of stacked uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Judgment affirmed.

Spruill v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, PICS Case No. 17-0575 (Pa. Commw. April 7, 2017) Pellegrini, S. J. (8 pages).

Board of probation and parole correctly calculated petitioner's new maximum sentence after he was constructively paroled to the federal detainer sentence to which his state conviction ran concurrent and was then released from his New Jersey sentence and returned to Pennsylvania because petitioner could not serve his state sentence while simultaneously being at liberty from it and his time served under the federal detainer could not be credited toward that state sentence. Affirmed.

Chestnut Hill Coll. v. Pennsylvania Human Relation Comm'n, PICS Case No. 17-0546 (Pa. Commw. April 7, 2017) Simpson, J. (29 pages).

Review of religiously-affiliated college's expulsion decision, alleged to have been motivated by racial discrimination, was not barred under First Amendment jurisprudence. Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission affirmed.

Merrell v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd., PICS Case No. 17-0528 (Pa. Commw. April 3, 2017) Leavitt, P.J. (18 pages).

Workers' compensation appeal board properly upheld WCJ's decision that an arbitrator's award of heart and lung benefits did not collaterally estop the WCJ from making her own determination as to claimant's disability. Affirmed.

Snyder Bros., Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Comm'n, PICS Case No. 17-0511 (Pa. Commw. March 29, 2017) McCullough J. (31 pages).

Commission erred in holding that petitioner's wells were not "stripper wells" because the term "any" in the definition of "stripper well" unambiguously meant "one" and not "all or every" and the uncontroverted evidence showed that the wells at issue produced less than 90,000 cf of gas in at a least one month and were stripper wells and not subject to impact fees. Reversed.

Plaintiff v. Defendant. In re JohnCarlo Oren, PICS Case No. 17-0580 (Pa. Commw. April 10, 2017) Cosgrove, J. (8 pages).

District attorney, as "chief" law enforcement officer of his or her county, had standing to participate in proceedings for appointment of deputy constable. Order of the trial court affirmed.

Foster v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corr., PICS Case No. 17-0579 (Pa. Commw. April 7, 2017) Wojcik, J. (7 pages).

Inmate could not use appeal of corrections department's denial of inmate's RTKL request, based on its determination that it did not possess inmate's sentencing order, as a collateral attack on his incarceration. Final determination of the Office of Open Records affirmed.

Clauser v. Commonwealth, PICS Case No. 17-0533 (C.P. Lehigh Mar. 21, 2017) Johnson, J. (7 pages).

Arresting officer testified to facts indicating reasonable cause for believing driver was intoxicated. The failure of an officer to read all of the words on the warning form regarding the breath test was not fatal where the words read by the officer sufficiently complied with the statute and notified the driver of potential consequences. License suspension appeal denied and dismissed.

Complete Business Solutions Group, Inc. v. NG Consulting Services, LLC, PICS Case No. 17-0389 (C.P. Philadelphia Feb 15, 2017) Djerassi, J. (7 pages).

Plaintiff's judgment by confession was improper where the complaint alleged defendants failed to cure the default, but the parties' agreement allowed plaintiff to obtain a judgment by confession only where defendants violated their representations and warranties. Motion to strike granted.

Byers v. Liggett, PICS Case No. 17-0470 (C.P. Allegheny Mar. 10, 2017) Hertzberg, J. (8 pages).

The statute of limitations governing a petition for a deficiency judgment provided only the latest date for filing, and was not a bar to early filings. The court properly relied on broker testimony rather than online information to establish market value for purposes of calculating the deficiency judgment.

Commonwealth v. Pi Delta Psi, PICS Case No. 17-0537 (C.P. Monroe Mar. 24, 2017) Patti-Worthington, J. (28 pages).

Fraternity was subject to criminal liability in connection with the death of a new member during initiation activities where fraternity provided mandatory training regarding initiation rituals. Defendant's pretrial motions denied.

Commonwealth v. McClain, PICS Case No. 17-0536 (C.P. Monroe Mar. 29, 2017) Zulick, J. (10 pages).

Police properly seized a cellphone concealed in defendant's clothing where she indicated to police that the phone contained recorded conversations relevant to an ongoing criminal matter. Where the commonwealth failed to provide evidence to indicate the location of allegedly unlawful recordings, those counts were dismissed. Pretrial motion granted in part; denied in part.

1720 Sansom St. LP v. Correll, PICS Case No. 17-0488 (C.P. Philadelphia Mar. 21, 2017) Powell, J. (12 pages).

Property owner was required to build a firewall between a portion of his property and the adjacent property, but was not required to tear down an encroaching structure that had existed in obvious view for many years. Verdict affirmed.

Stillwater Lakes Civic Ass'n v. Kuzni, PICS Case No. 17-0540 (C.P. Monroe County March 13, 2017) Higgins, J. (14 pages).

Association sought summary judgment in its action against property owner for dues, assessments and fees related to his two lots in a subdivision. Property owner owned the lot his house was on and a second adjoining vacant lot. Owner contended that he "relinquished" his membership in the association by letter in 2010 and was not responsible for any fees associated with the use of any recreation areas and other "noncommon" areas. He said that he was willing to pay "reasonable and quarterly sewer charges" and for "reasonable maintenance charges for the roads and common areas."

In re Estate of Miscella, PICS Case No. 17-0541 (C.P. Monroe County March 23, 2107) Williamson, J. (17 pages).

Deceased's estate objected to the accounting filed by defendant, who acted as a fiduciary and power of attorney for the decedent, and to the distribution of insurance proceeds from a home owned by defendant and decedent which was destroyed by fire. Decedent and her family agreed that a home would be purchased for decedent and defendant to live in while defendant, a niece of decedent, acted as decedent's full-time caregiver. The home was titled in both names as joint tenants with right of survivorship as compensation for defendant's services. Other family members of decedent later petitioned for the appointment of a guardian and defendant was named as the guardian. Defendant became unhappy with intrusion by various relatives and petitioned the court to remove her as a guardian of the person of decedent. The court appointed other guardians and defendant moved out of the house. The house burned down the next day and decedent died several weeks later. Decedent's estate requested an accounting from defendant and alleged that defendant mismanaged decedent's money. Defendant filed an accounting and the estate submitted exceptions. Defendant filed a declaratory judgment motion to determine who was entitled to the insurance proceeds of the burned house.

Lifewatch Serv., Inc. v. Highmark, Inc., PICS Case No. 17-0512 (E.D. Pa. April 3, 2017) Robreno, J. (26 pages).

Court found that defendant insurance plans' refusal to purchase the cardiac outpatient telemetry device that plaintiff sold was not an antitrust violation, but rather a legal exercise of defendants' monopsony power. Dismissed with prejudice.