The appropriate use of social media in litigation remains an evolving issue in New Jersey. The search term “Facebook” will result in hundreds of cases spanning the civil, criminal and family law arenas. Last week, a divided Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board, in the latest chapter of a lengthy legal process, admonished a New Jersey attorney for instructing his paralegal to “friend request” an adverse party in order to investigate a party’s Facebook posts. In rendering its decision, the DRB majority also recommended that the Supreme Court adopt a new policy on lawyers using social media for discovery purposes. Continue reading
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued an opinion on an insurer’s duty to defend in the case of Erie Insurance Exchange v. Tracy L. Moore, Harold E. McCutcheon, III, individually and as administrators of the Estate of Harold Eugene McCutcheon, Jr. and Richard A. Carly, No. 20 WAP 2018, 2020 WL 1932642 (Pa. April 22, 2020). The court found that there was a duty to defend an insured where the acts complained of by the plaintiff were deemed potentially unintended, despite the insured’s several prior and subsequent acts of intentional violence.
The facts of the case arose from the murder of Terry McCutcheon by her ex-husband Harold E. McCutcheon, Jr. and his subsequent suicide. Prior to these events, McCutcheon had left a note to his adult children explaining his intention to murder his ex-wife and commit suicide. In accordance with his stated plan, McCutcheon intentionally shot and killed his ex-wife at her home. Before he could shoot himself, however, he was interrupted by the arrival of his ex-wife’s current boyfriend, Richard A. Carly. Carly began knocking on the door and eventually tried to enter when there was no answer. At this point, McCutcheon suddenly opened the door and pulled Carly inside. Continue reading
Recently, each house of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has introduced proposed legislation addressing the possibility of compelling insurance carriers to provide coverage due to the COVID-19 virus, regardless as to whether the insurance policy identifies such coverage as contained within the policy provisions.
House Bill 2372 provides in relevant part:
Notwithstanding any other law, rule or regulation, an insurance policy that insures against loss or damage to property, which includes the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption, in force in this Commonwealth on March 6, 2020, which is the date of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency concerning the coronavirus pandemic, shall be construed to include among the covered perils under the insurance policy coverage for business interruption due to global virus transmission or pandemic.
The Bill continues:
The coverage required by this section shall indemnify the insured of an insurance policy, subject to the broadest or greatest limit and lowest deductible afforded to business interruption coverage under the insurance policy, for any loss of business or business interruption for the duration of the declaration of disaster emergency described in subsection (a).
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Waiver of Attorney Work Product and Attorney-Client Privilege Protections
The attorney-client privilege and attorney work product doctrine are two well-known evidentiary protections. Although both protect otherwise relevant and “discoverable” materials from disclosure, the two evidentiary protections serve different purposes and are subject to different standards.
The purpose of the attorney-client privilege is to foster the free and open communication of information between the lawyer and client. Whereas, the purpose of the work product doctrine is to protect the mental impressions of an attorney acting on behalf of a client. Consistent with the purposes of these evidentiary protections, the attorney-client privilege is held by the client, while the work product protection is held by the attorney.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified the circumstances under which attorney work product protection may be waived, while distinguishing such waiver from the standard for waiver of the attorney-client privilege. Continue reading
Product liability litigation in Pennsylvania was significantly altered by the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 628 Pa. 296 (2014), which overruled Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company, 480 Pa. 547 (1978), and returned to fact finders the responsibility to determine if a product was unreasonably dangerous, based on a full evaluation of the proofs offered by the plaintiff.
Burlington County New Jersey is home to Joint Base MDL (JBMDL), which employs approximately 42,000 soldiers between the three bases (McGuire, Ft. Dix and Lakehurst). Approximately 60,000 military retirees live within a 50 mile radius of JBMDL. With such a dense population of active military and retirees, there is a good opportunity an attorney in the Central/Southern New Jersey region will represent current/former military personnel during the course of their legal career. As an attorney, and also as the military member, individuals should be aware of several special considerations when it comes to providing or seeking legal counsel. Continue reading