This Week's Cases

Commonwealth v. Shabezz, PICS Case No. 17-1249 (Pa. July 19, 2017) Wecht, J.; Mundy, J., concurring. (21 pages).

Passenger in a vehicle unconstitutionally seized by police entitled to suppression of all evidence found in the vehicle, rather than just the areas of the vehicle where the passenger had a reasonable expectation of privacy, where the search of the vehicle stemmed from the passenger's illegal seizure. Order of the superior court affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Cullen-Doyle, PICS Case No. 17-1250 (Pa. July 20, 2017) Saylor, C.J.; Todd, J., dissenting. (13 pages).

Present conviction on a single count of burglary did not render offender ineligible for RRRI, where the statute's focus on "history" of violent offenses indicated it only intended to exclude career offenders less likely to benefit from RRRI program. Order of the superior court reversed.

Commonwealth v. Muniz, PICS Case No. 17-1251 (Pa. July 19, 2017) Dougherty, J.; Saylor, C.J., dissenting. (85 pages).

Retroactive application of SORNA's registration provisions violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions because the registration provisions constituted punishment as the requirements were akin to tradition forms of punishment like probation or parole. Order of the superior court reversed.

Trust Under Agreement of Taylor, PICS Case No. 17-1261 (Pa. July 19, 2017) Donohue, J. (25 pages).

Superior Court erred in holding that §7740.1 did not exclude modifications to a trust in a case where beneficiaries asked the court to allow the trust to be modified to include a portability provision because §7766 was the exclusive provision regarding removal of trustees. Reversed.

Commonwealth v. Domek, PICS Case No. 17-1247 (Pa. Super. July 21, 2017) Bowes, J. (11 pages).

Court ruled that evidence was not so overwhelming as to establish that the jury would have also convicted defendant under the proper mens rea standard and thus appellant established trial counsel's ineffectiveness had an adverse impact on outcome. Order of the PCRA court reversed.

Commonwealth v. Robinson, PICS Case No. 17-1252 (Pa. Super. July 19, 2017) Dubow, J. (12 pages).

Six criminal contempt convictions arising from a single courtroom hearing did not violate double jeopardy where each conviction was preceded by a separate contemptuous act, despite the acts' temporal proximity and allegedly singular motivation. Judgment of sentence affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Smith, PICS Case No. 17-1253 (Pa. Super. July 24, 2017) Dubow, J. (19 pages).

Ineffective assistance of counsel claim for failure to challenge competency of minor victim witness failed where defendant could not demonstrate prejudice since there was no allegation that victim was incompetent nor could defendant prove that trial court would have sustained objection to competency. Order of the PCRA court affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Green, PICS Case No. 17-1248 (Pa. Super. July 24, 2017) Bowes, J. (13 pages).

Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to consult with defendant about an appeal, since counsel established such a duty by specifically preserving an issue for appeal that a reasonable defendant would want to pursue where success on appeal could result in dismissal of charges. Order of the PCRA court reversed, case remanded.

Commonwealth v. Bell, PICS Case No. 17-1245 (Pa. Super. July 19, 2017) Stevens, J. (12 pages).

The trial court erred in holding that the Commonwealth's admission of evidence of defendant's refusal to submit to a blood test at his trial on charges of driving under the influence violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The court reversed and remanded.

Commonwealth v. Storey, PICS Case No. 17-1255 (Pa. Super. July 20, 2017) Lazarus, J. (15 pages).

Trial court properly denied appellant's motion for a new trial after he was convicted for drug delivery resulting in death, possession with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of controlled substance because his constitutional challenge to 18 Pa. C.S.A. §2506 failed, there was sufficient evidence that the heroin he sold caused the addict's death, trial court gave adequate cautionary and jury instructions and prosecution's reference to user's credibility in its closing argument was in response to comments by the defense in its closing argument. Affirmed.

Commonwealth v. Bush, PICS Case No. 17-1242 (Pa. Super July 19, 2017) Stevens, J.; Shogan and Stevens, J.J., concurring (25 pages).

Police had probable cause to stop defendant's vehicle for a possible violation of the Motor Vehicle Code where a state trooper observed defendant operating his vehicle with its high beams on within 500 feet of the trooper's approaching cruiser, even though the roadway was divided by a concrete barrier. The court affirmed defendant's judgment of sentence.

BouSamra v. Excela Health et al, PICS Case No. 17-1243 (Pa. Super. July 19, 2017) Bowes, J. (33 pages).

The trial court properly held that the defendant corporation waived attorney-client privilege by forwarding attorney correspondence to an outside public relations consultant since the record did not support a finding that the consultant firm fell within the parameters of corporate employees or agents entitled to attorney-client protection. The appellate court affirmed a trial court discovery order.

Coffman v. Kline, PICS Case No. 17-1244 (Pa. Super. July 24, 2017) Bowed, J. (18 pages).

The trial court erred in determining that the procedure for distribution of the settlement proceeds outlined in 23 Pa. C. S. § 4308.1 applied to father's settlement for workers' compensation benefits and that neither a workers' compensation judge nor a claims servicer were required to comply with an otherwise valid nondisbursement order. The court reversed and remanded.

In the Interest of C.E.H., PICS Case No. 17-1257 (Pa. Super. July 21, 2017) Lazarus, J. (9 pages).

Minor was properly adjudicated delinquent where eyewitness testimony supported the court's determination that minor committed simple and aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and attempted to obstruct the police escorting his stepfather to a police car when he cursed and jumped on the officers and his claim that he was prevented from exploring the bias of a witness was unfounded since the court did allow testimony regarding the length and character of the witness' relationship with one of the officers. Affirmed.

In the Interest of J.I.P., PICS Case No.17-1258 (Pa. Super. July 20, 2017) Shogan, J. (17 pages).

Trial court properly terminated mother's parental rights under §§2511(a) and (b) because the trial court's conclusions regarding mother's mental health and housing issues were supported by the record and she did not raise before the trial court any concerns that would have created the need for independent legal counsel for child nor did she make any claims that the attorney failed to properly represent the child's legal and best interests. Affirmed.

Pane v. Indian Rocks Property Owners Ass'n, Inc., PICS Case No. 17-1259 (Pa. Commw. July 19, 2017) Colins, S.J. (14 pages).

Trial court properly found for homeowners and dissolved the injunction preventing them from building a swimming pool on their lot because homeowners' association repealed the regulations regarding pools in 2009 and there were no written resolutions prohibiting pools on lots in 2015 when homeowners sought to build a pool. Affirmed.

Legome & Assoc., LLC v. Summit Pharmacy, Inc., PICS Case No. 17-1206 (C.P. Philadelphia July 27, 2017) Djerassi, J. (5 pages).

Under the clear and unambiguous terms of the parties' retainer agreement, the New Jersey-based defendant consented to the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania court, agreed to be bound by Pennsylvania law and consented to the entry of a confessed judgment in any court. The court denied defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Lehigh Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Inc. v. Lehigh Valley Oral Surgery and Implant Ctr., PICS Case No. 17-1207 (C.P. Northampton July 13, 2017) Murray, J. (7 pages).

The court sustained plaintiff's preliminary objections to a defendant's new matter based on conclusory or subjective allegations, but overruled plaintiff's preliminary objections as to the sufficiency of the affirmative defenses.

CP v. RP Jr., PICS Case No. 17-1210 (C.P. Lycoming July 26, 2017) McCoy, J. (11 pages).

The court did not abuse its discretion in enforcing the parties' settlement agreement reached in mediation, because the parties signed the document and took steps to effectuate the terms of the written agreement.

In the Interest of M.R.F. III, PICS Case No. 17-1216 (C.P. Lawrence July 7, 2017) Acker, J. (6 pages).

Foster parents did not have standing to intervene in a dependency proceeding where the goal was reunification and the child was not eligible for adoption.

Crouse v. Foltz et al, PICS Case No. 17-1205 (C.P. Adams July 6, 2017) George, J. (10 pages).

Defendants could not maintain their joinder complaint against Littlestown Borough in this action arising out of injuries plaintiff suffered on defendants' property where they failed to demonstrate that the utility services facilities exception to governmental immunity applied. The court granted the defendant municipality's motion for summary judgment.

Adams Outdoor Adver., Ltd. v. South Whitehall Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., PICS Case No.17-1213 (C.P. Lehigh July 7, 2017) Johnson, J. (20 pages).

A local zoning board did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant a variance to a business for installation of a sign that exceeded the dimensions permitted in the ordinance, and which did not meet the separation distance requirements.

Williams v. Taylor et al, PICS Case No. 17-1204 (C.P. Adams July 5, 2017) Campbell, J. (4 pages).

Defendants failed to demonstrate they had a right of way over plaintiff's tract of land where the evidence demonstrated that the claimed right of way was situated on unenclosed woodland in violation of 68 P.S. § 411. The court entered judgment for plaintiff.

Southwestern Energy Prod. Co. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, PICS Case No. 17-1217 (C.P. Lycoming July 31, 2017) Anderson, J. (4 pages).

Plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment regarding subsurface rights in property where the evidence indicated the defendant's predecessor was divested of the subsurface rights in a tax sale.

Lehigh Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Inc. v. Lehigh Valley Oral Surgery and Implant Ctr., PICS Case No. 17-1207 (C.P. Northampton July 13, 2017) Murray, J. (7 pages).

The court sustained plaintiff's preliminary objections to a defendant's new matter based on conclusory or subjective allegations, but overruled plaintiff's preliminary objections as to the sufficiency of the affirmative defenses.

In Re SemCrude L.P., PICS Case No. 17-1260 (3rd Cir. July 19, 2107) Ambro, J. (42 pages).

District court and bankruptcy court properly granted summary judgment in oil producers' action alleging they had a security interest in oil sold by debtor to downstream purchasers and alleging common-law fraud because there was no evidence of fraud, purchasers bought the oil free of any purported security interest as buyers for value or as buyers in the ordinary course of business, the Texas and Kansas UCC laws did not give producers an automatically perfected security interest where the debtor was located out of state and the Oklahoma production revenue standards act did not apply to downstream purchasers.

In Re: Blood Reagents Antitrust Litig., PICS Case No. 17-1246 (E.D.Pa. July 19, 2017) DuBois, J. (64 pages).

Defendant's summary judgment motion on Sherman Act violation denied to the extent plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence that defendant's shift in price increase strategy represented "abrupt" change for industry and was paralleled by sole competitor. Summary judgment denied in part and granted in part.

Eddystone Rail Co., LLC v. Bridger Logistics, LLC, PICS Case No. 17-1256 (E.D. Pa. July 19, 2017) Kelly, S.J.(15 pages).

The court found that it had specific jurisdiction over the individual defendants in plaintiffs action alleging claims of alter ego, intentional fraudulent transfer, constructive fraudulent transfer and breach of fiduciary duties of care and loyalty to creditors and the complaint adequately alleged colorable claims against each defendant. Motions to dismiss denied.