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Pennsylvania Supreme Court grapples with distinction between gross negligence and recklessness.

By Christopher P. Lagay

In the case of Feleccia v. Lackawanna College, No. 74 MAP 2017, 215 A.3d 3 (Pa. 2019), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard an appeal from the Lackawanna College defendants, after their motion for summary judgment, granted by the trial court, was reversed on appeal by the Superior Court.

Plaintiffs, Feleccia and Resch were student athletes at Lackawanna College, trying out for the football team in March of 2010.  Lackawanna College’s football department had lost its two athletic trainers in the summer of 2009, and had hired two recent graduates with degrees in Athletic Training, though neither had passed their athletic trainer certification exam at the time they were hired for the position.  In fact, after their hiring, both new hires failed their certification exam, and the Lackawanna re-titled their position to “first responder,” though they did not sign new or different job descriptions.

Lackawanna College moved for and was granted summary judgment, based primarily on waiver.  Finding the negligence claims barred, the trial court ruled the claim for punitive damages also failed, and discussion of the waiver’s applicability to the punitive damages claim was unnecessary.

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Summary Judgment Granted in Favor of Homeowners Following Fire

The Court in Passaic County Dismissed a Complaint against the owners of a residential multi-unit building in Patterson, New Jersey.  The Complaint was filed by a neighboring property owner that sustained a total loss due to a fire originating in the apartment of a tenant of our client.  The Court found that the property owner was not responsible for the negligent act of the tenant, and granted summary judgment.

Robert E. Lavoie III joins Connor, Weber & Oberlies

Robert E. Lavoie III joined Connor, Weber & Oberlies in 2020 and works out of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office. Robert focuses his practice in the areas of general liability, products liability, and professional liability litigation. Robert is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

New Jersey Supreme Court Disciplinary Review Board Recommends New Policy for Use of Social Media in Discovery.

By: Philip J. Degnan, Esquire

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

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Intentions Ambiguous in Shooting During Fistfight

By Patrick T. Casey, Esquire

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

Legislative Response to Business Interruption Coverage in Pennsylvania

By Julia Jacobelli, Esquire

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).

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Waiver of Attorney Work Product and Attorney-Client Privilege Protections

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Waiver of Attorney Work Product and Attorney-Client Privilege Protections

by Patrick Casey, Esquire

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

Robert A Morton, IV joins Connor, Weber & Oberlies

Robert A. Morton IV joined Connor, Weber & Oberlies in 2019 and works out of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office. Robert focuses his practice in the areas of construction claims, products liability, professional liability, and Federal Civil Rights litigation. Robert is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Tax Court. Robert will be based out of the Paoli office of Connor, Weber & Oberlies.

Summary Judgement affirmed in Malpractice case against NJ Insurance Producer.

Summary Judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Division in a professional malpractice case against an insurance producer in a New Jersey Superior Court case. Amelia M. Lolli, Esquire was successful in obtaining summary judgment in favor of a Camden County insurance agency in a 2014 case. The summary judgment decision was appealed by the Plaintiff and oral argument was conducted by Ms. Lolli in front of the Appellate Division in January 2019. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the case by the trial court and found the insurance producer did not breach a fiduciary duty to its client.