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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Broadens the Real Property Exception to the Immunity Provided by the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act

By: Julia Jacobelli

On December 28, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion which expands on the definition of “real property,” for purposes of determining governmental immunity under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.

In Brewington v. City of Philadelphia, Walter G. Smith Elementary School and The School District of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversing the entry of Summary Judgment in favor of the School District. Plaintiff, Jarett Brewington (a minor) and his mother, Syeta Brewington, claimed that on May 9, 2012, Jarett was participating in a relay race during gym class at Walter G. Smith Elementary School when he tripped and fell, causing him to propel headfirst into a wall at the end of the gym. The wall was concrete, and not padded. As a result of his fall, minor plaintiff suffered a concussion, was absent from school for a period of time, and suffered headaches and memory issues.

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Pre-trial Dismissal in Mercer County Slip and Fall

In Mercer County, New Jersey, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s case in its entirety on the eve of trial, following the suppression of plaintiff’s medical evidence during the pre-trial conference.

Plaintiff claimed he slipped and fell on ice outside his apartment and suffered substantial injuries. Phil Degnan challenged plaintiff’s theory of liability and damages. The Court ruled that the suppression of plaintiff’s medical evidence precluded plaintiff from presenting his case to the jury.

Can real estate buyer waive seller’s disclosure…Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law

by Monica Reynolds

Can a buyer of residential real estate waive a seller’s disclosure obligations under Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law?

The short answer is: maybe, but in any event, not absent an affirmative waiver. In Phelps v. Caperoon, — A.3d –, 2018 WL 3016477 (Pa. Super. June 18, 2018), the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently addressed the issue of whether an “as-is” clause in the agreement of sale implicitly waived a seller’s disclosure obligations under the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law, 68 Pa. C.S. §§ 7101-7103, 7301-7314, et seq., (“RESDL”), but stopped short of giving a definitive answer as to whether an explicit waiver would be permitted. Continue reading

The state of product liability law in Pennsylvania post Tincher v. Omegaflex

By Christopher P. Lagay

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.

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Pennsylvania Superior Court: No Deference Where Trial Judge Fails to Observe Voir Dire

By: Pat Casey

A common practice in many state civil courtrooms throughout Pennsylvania, certainly in its two busiest courts – the Philadelphia and Allegheny Courts of Common Pleas – has recently been found to be lacking by the Superior Court: jury selection outside the presence of a judge. When civil litigators select a jury, they use a process in which the attorneys and the court work together to search for potential hardship, bias and prejudice among the prospective jurors through a series of written and oral questions, known as voir dire (meaning roughly “to tell the truth”). Commonly in civil litigation, the trial judge does directly not participate in this process. Instead, the trial judge will delegate one of his or her staff to handle this sometimes time-consuming endeavor of narrowing down a potential juror pool of hundreds to the 8 or 12 jurors who will ultimately hear the case, along with 1 or 2 alternate jurors.

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Pennsylvania Superior Court Declines to Create Exception to Hills and Ridges Doctrine

By: Julia Jacobelli

On January 31, 2018, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued an opinion which reaffirmed the validity of the hills and ridges doctrine, and provided additional guidance on the scope of the duties of property owners to remove snow and ice from their property.

In Collins v. Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation and Ross’s Home Improvement, Inc., the Superior Court affirmed the decision of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment on the basis of the hills and ridges doctrine. Plaintiff, David Collins, claimed that on January 21, 2014, he slipped and fell on an ice or snow covered sidewalk on property owned by Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation and leased to Plaintiff’s employer. Continue reading

Defense Verdict Upheld in Monmouth County Slip and Fall

The Court denied plaintiff’s Motion to Vacate the jury’s defense verdict following a trial in Monmouth County. Plaintiff had alleged that she fell down a set of unlit exterior stairs outside a community lodge.

Plaintiff had suffered a broken ankle in the accident. Phil Degnan successfully argued that the plaintiff could have chosen a safe path of travel, or simply turned on the light above the stairs, and should have used the handrail. No appeal has been filed.

Defense Verdict in Auto Theft Coverage Suit

Philip Degnan obtained a defense verdict in a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff that claimed his car was stolen in Philadelphia. The claim had been denied by the insurance carrier for fraud. Under cross-examination, plaintiff reluctantly admitted that he misrepresented certain facts about the alleged “theft.” Following the conclusion of plaintiff’s case in chief, the Court granted defendant’s Motion for a Directed Verdict.