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
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
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.
PA Supreme Court: Minor Deviations from Underinsured Motorist Coverage Rejection Form
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: very minor deviations from underinsured motorist coverage rejection form permitted
In Ford v. American States Insurance Company, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently clarified that “de minimis,” or minor, deviations from the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage rejection form set out in Section 1731 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law can nevertheless “specifically comply” with Section 1731. Ford v. American States Ins. Co., No. 13 WAP 2016, 2017 WL 694744 (Pa. February 22, 2017).
Section 1731 requires that insurers obtain the signature of any insured wishing to reject UIM coverage on a form that contains specific language dictated by the General Assembly. Continue reading
Patrick T. Casey, Esquire joins Connor, Weber & Oberlies
Patrick T. Casey, Esquire joins Connor, Weber & Oberlies practicing in insurance defense litigation and civil litigation.