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December 2011

Special Education Opportunities for Special Needs Children

by Sharon Harvey, Esquire

The first day of school is always an exciting and a stressful time for parents and their children, particularly for children who are going to school for the first time. All parents naturally assume that their child will make friends, behave appropriately in class, get good grades and move onto the next grade without any problems. It often comes as a shock to the parents when their child doesn’t follow this magical master plan. The parents are often unsure about what to do to help their child and often unaware of what services the school district must provide to help a child succeed.

Summary Judgments and the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act

by Sharon F. Harvey, Esquire

In Pennsylvania law suits brought against school districts and various county governments or agencies are subject to the limitations set forth in the of the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S. §8541 et seq.. The Political Subdivision Tort Claim Act allows for law suits to proceed against these "local agencies" only if specific requirements are met.

Reimbursement of Medical Assistance from Pennsylvania Personal Injury Claims

by Lisa A. Cauley, Esquire

Effective September 2, 2008, changes were made to Pennsylvania law governing reimbursement of Medical Assistance from personal injury claims. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare may fine insurance companies up to $5,000.00 for each violation of the new law. Essentially, whereas the burden and penalty used to be upon the recipient/claimant for failure to reimburse the DPW, insurers now share in that responsibility, with financial consequences for failure to do so. The new law applies to suits filed or claims made on or after September 2, 2008.

Potential Liability for Supplying and Serving Alcohol – Social Host Liability in Pennsylvania

By Lisa Cauley, Esquire

Many individuals and businesses in Pennsylvania question whether they may be held liable if they serve alcohol to a person who later injures himself or others. In some states, a “social host” may be liable for resulting personal injury or property damages if the social host served alcohol to a person when he know or should have known the person was intoxicated and/or when he knew the person would be driving afterward. These laws are referred to as “Dram Shop” Acts, and enable injured third parties to recover damages from the alcohol supplier. The term “social host” may be defined, depending upon the state, to include anyone who hosts a social gathering, including private individuals, employers and organizations.

The Developing State of Joint and Several Liability Law in Pennsylvania

by Lisa A. Cauley, Esquire

Approximately 20 months ago, the Pennsylvania Legislature made significant changes to Pennsylvania law regarding Joint and Several Liability Statute and Comparative Negligence Act. The amended Act, known as the “Fair Share Act” made significant changes to joint and several liability in cases involving multiple defendants. Under the “Fair Share Act”, joint liability was abolished in causes of action arising after the effective date of the Act, August 18, 2002, in cases seeking damages for property damage or for injury or death to a person. Prior to the enactment of the Fair Share Act, any defendant found liable for a plaintiff’s loss could be made to pay the entire verdict, no matter the amount of that defendant’s proportionate share of liability.

The Theory Behind Punitive Damages

Sharon Harvey, Esquire

The law in Pennsylvania allows the imposition of punitive damages on1y for conduct that is outrageous The defendant's evil motive or his reckless indifference to the rights of must be evaluated Chambers v. Montgomery, 411 Pa. 339, 492 A. 2d 355 (1963). Punitive damages are normally allowed in tort actions but punitive damages have also been allowed in contract actions when one parties action has been so outrageous that the Court believed that an award of punitive damages was warranted. SHV Coal, Inc. v. Continental Grain Co. 526 Pa. 489, 587 A. 2d 702 (1991). Punitive damages are also available in an equity action if the chancellor in equity determines that a person's actions arise to outrageous conduct.

The Availability of the Statutory Employer Defense in Civil Actions

by Sharon F. Harvey, Esquire

The Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for workers who are injured on the job. Consequently, the employer of an injured worker is immune from a civil suit. However, some employees can actually have more than one employer. This situation may arise when an accident occurs on a construction site where workers of various trades come onto the job site and their activities are controlled by the general contractor. A general contractor who attains the status of a statutory employer is also entitled to immunity from civil suit for negligence claims. Section 52 of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act (hereinafter the Act) sets forth the "statutory employer" defense. The Act states as follows:

Recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision Changes Future Course of UM/UIM Claims

by Lisa Cauley, Esquire

On December 30, 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rendered its decision on the long-contested issue of whether automobile insurance policies issued in Pennsylvania are required to contain a provision that uninsured ("UM") and underinsured ("UIM") claims be resolved by way of mandatory, binding arbitration. Arbitration of UM and UIM claims has long been the practice in Pennsylvania, and prior attempts by insurers to eliminate, or render optional, arbitration of such 

The State of “Verbal Threshold”: Recent Changes to New Jersey Auto Law

by Lisa A. Cauley, Esquire

Since 1988, New Jersey drivers have had the option of agreeing to restrict their right to sue for injuries sustained in automobile accidents in exchange for payment of lower insurance premiums. This restriction, known as "verbal threshold", limits recovery for non-economic damages, the most common example of which is "pain and suffering", unless the person sustained at least one of the delineated types of injury: 1) Death; 2) dismemberment; 3)

Household Exception Upheld by Pennsylvania Supreme Court

by Sharon Harvey, Esquire

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision In Erie Ins. Exch. v. Baker, 972 A.2d 507 (2009) which upheld the validity of the "household exclusion" contained in the Erie Insurance policy issued to Gene Baker. In a close decision (4-3) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the validity of Erie Insurance’s household exclusion which stated: "This insurance does not apply to... "damages sustained by anyone we protect while occupying or being struck by a motor vehicle owned by you or a relative, but not insured for Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists Coverage under this policy.".