In 2002, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (the MCARE Act), 40 P.S. § 1303.501, et seq. reformed the law on medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. One result of the MCARE Act was a change to Pennsylvania’s venue rules for medical malpractice actions, which was implemented in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.Continue reading
Liability in the Age of Covid-19
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of life as we know it. In March 2020, when the pandemic lockdown occurred, the term Covid-19 was new to most of us. For many people, uncertainty and worry became part of daily life. In the legal arena, the Covid-19 pandemic has raised some important questions. One question was the extent to which healthcare professionals could be held liable for Covid deaths. Another by extension, is what the standard of care is for treatment of any rare disease.
At the beginning of the pandemic, hospitals were understaffed and overflowing with patients. There were hospital bed shortages, and the medical field was working quickly to understand Covid-19 and how to slow the spread. Retired nurses and doctors were asked to return to work to help alleviate the burden on overworked staff. Because of the possible implications of a Covid diagnosis, and the threat (medically and legally) to health care workers who were on the front lines, many states, including NJ, implemented a law that immunized health care workers, acting in good faith to save lives, from negligence lawsuits related to the treatment of Covid-19.Continue reading
Spencer v. Johnson and the Potential Consequences of the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s Dicta on the Fair Share Act.
By: Robert E. Lavoie
Since the inception of the Fair Share Act over a decade ago, the act has been applied in Pennsylvania without much controversy. Then, in dicta found in the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision from last year in the case of Spencer v. Johnson, 249 A.3d 529 (Pa. Super. 2021), that court raised, on a seemingly sua sponte basis, the proposition that the Fair Share Act should not apply in cases involving innocent victim plaintiffs.
Examples of cases where a plaintiff may be an innocent victim include cases where a plaintiff is a guest passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident, or cases where a plaintiff struck while walking in the crosswalk with the pedestrian light in his favor, or in claims involving plaintiffs who are the victims of negligent medical care while under anesthesia. As such, this dicta could come into play in a number of scenarios going forward.Continue reading
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Intentions Ambiguous in Shooting During Fistfight
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
Waiver of Attorney Work Product and Attorney-Client Privilege Protections
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
Representing the Military Client
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