Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
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In September 2013, Tawny Chevalier filed a class action complaint against General Nutrition Centers, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and General Nutrition Corporation, a Pennsylvania corporation (collectively GNC). The case involved the calculation of overtime compensation for non-exempt salaried workers under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968 (PMWA), and the related regulations adopted by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (Pennsylvania Regulations). Specifically, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether these statutory and regulatory provisions allowed for the usage of the Fluctuating Work Week method (FWW Method) for calculating overtime compensation for salaried employees working fluctuating hours. As explained in detail below, we affirm the Superior Court’s decision rejecting the use of the FWW Method under the PMWA and the Pennsylvania Regulations, which were distinguishable from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which overtly adopted the FWW Method for salaried employees working fluctuating hours. Chevalier had previously been employed by GNC as a store manager and senior store manager, earning a set weekly salary plus commissions, regardless of the number of hours she worked in a given week. GNC additionally paid her overtime for any hours worked in excess of forty hours in a week by utilizing the FWW Method explained below. Essentially, Chevalier argued that the FWW Method did not satisfy the PMWA’s requirement that employees “shall be paid for overtime not less than one and one-half times the employe[e]'s regular rate.” The Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision to reject GNC’s use of the FWW Method for calculating Plaintiffs’ overtime compensation to the extent it used a 0.5 multiplier. View "Chevalier v. General Nutrition Centers" on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed whether a magisterial district court had jurisdiction over a case proceeding under the Landlord and Tenant Act, where the plaintiff was the purchaser of a property at a sheriff’s sale, and the defendants were the property’s former owners who refused to leave, but where the parties did not have a landlord-tenant relationship. The Supreme Court determined the magistrate court did not have jurisdiction, and so reversed and remanded for dismissal. View "Assouline v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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In this discretionary appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether a requested change of beneficiary designation and plan option for benefits payable under the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) was effective upon mailing or upon receipt by SERS, where SERS did not receive the required change documentation until after the SERS member’s death. The Court held the change was not effective until receipt by SERS, the common law mailbox rule did not apply, and the Commonwealth Court erred in holding to the contrary. View "Estate of L. Wilson v. State Employees' Retirement Bd." on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an airline employee who was injured while riding an airport shuttle bus to an employee parking lot after her shift ended. The question before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether the employee’s injury can be said to have occurred on the airline’s premises for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act even though the City of Philadelphia owned both the shuttle bus and the employee parking lot. The Supreme Court concluded the Commonwealth Court, Appeal Board, and WCJ correctly concluded that the lot in which the employee parked her vehicle was integral to the company’s business operations. The employee used the airport parking lot and shuttle service to enter and exit her workplace. As part of the airline’s business relationship with the airport, it clearly was aware that the Division of Aviation would make employee parking available to the airline’s employees. “Indeed, the evidence presented to the WCJ suggests that, had the Division not done so, US Airways would have been obligated under its collective bargaining agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to reimburse flight attendants like Bockelman for the cost of airport parking.” View "US Airways, et al. v. WCAB (Bockelman)" on Justia Law

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This matter came from two separate lawsuits commenced in the Pennsylvania courts of common pleas which were subsequently removed to federal district courts on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, and thereafter consolidated for disposition by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Appellee William Scott was covered by an automobile insurance policy issued by Appellant Travelers Commercial Insurance Company. Appellee Samantha Sayles was covered by an automobile policy issued by Appellant Allstate Insurance Company. Allstate’s policy contained a clause, similar to the one in Scott’s policy, providing that, in order to receive first-party medical benefits, the insured had to submit to mental and physical examinations by physicians selected by the insurance company at the company’s behest before medical benefits were paid. Both appellees were injured in separate car accidents, and their respective insurance companies refused to pay their medical bills. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit certified a question of Pennsylvania law to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Does an automobile insurance policy provision, which required an insured seeking first-party medical benefits under the policy to submit to an independent medical exam whenever the insurer requires and with a doctor selected by the insurer, conflict with 75 Pa.C.S. Section 1796(a) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”), such that the requirement was void as against public policy? After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the provision indeed conflicted with Section 1796(a), and was void as against public policy. View "Sayles. v. Allstate Ins Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants Jonathan Saksek and Joshua Winter challenged a superior court decision to affirm summary judgment in favor of Appellees Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Johnson & Johnson Company, and Janssen Research and Development, LLC (collectively, “Janssen”). Saksek and Winter were two of a large number of men who filed suit against Janssen, alleging that they developed gynecomastia as a result of their ingestion of Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug manufactured by Janssen. In 2014, Janssen filed two motions for summary judgment, which were nominally directed at Saksek’s and Winter’s cases, but had language affecting all Risperdal plaintiffs: the companies sought a global ruling that all claims accrued for statute of limitations purposes no later than October 31, 2006, when Janssen changed the Risperdal label to reflect a greater association between gynecomastia and Risperdal. The trial court ruled that all Risperdal-gynecomastia claims accrued no later June 31, 2009. The superior court disagreed, ruling that all such claims accrued no later than Janssen’s preferred date (October 31, 2006). Concluding that the superior court erred in granting summary judgment at all in Saksek’s and Winter’s cases, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated its decision and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "In Re: Risperdal Litig." on Justia Law

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Decedent Sophia Krasinski died testate in 2006. The primary assets of her estate included three parcels of real estate. The Executor was one of the Decedent’s four children, who also included Eleanor Krasinski, James Krasinski, and Patricia Krasinski-Dunzik. Decedent’s will directed that each of her four children were equal beneficiaries of the residue of the estate. In 2010, the Executor filed a petition to permit the private sale of real estate to heirs. The orphans’ court granted the Executor’s petition to permit the sale. Dunzik and her husband sued the estate based upon an alleged oral contract with the Decedent regarding the property. After a nonjury trial, the trial court ruled that there was no enforceable oral contract between Dunzik and Decedent and dismissed the case. This trial court order also lifted a stay on the orphans’ court’s prior order approving the private sale of the Decedent’s lands. Dunzik did not appeal the trial court’s rulings. The sale proceeded; the Executor, James and his wife, and Dunzik attended, at which time Dunzik stated that she would not be bidding because she believed that she already owned the properties. Dunzik again challenged the completed sales. This discretionary appeal presented the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with an opportunity to clarify the proper scope of Rule 342(a)(6) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provided for an appeal as of right from an order of the Orphans’ Court Division that “determin[es] an interest in real or personal property.” The statute further provided that the failure of a party to immediately appeal an order appealable under, inter alia, Rule 342(a)(6), constitutes a waiver of all objections to the order. The Supreme Court concluded Dunzik waived all objections to the orphans’ court’s order approving the private sale. View "In Re: Estate of Krasinski" on Justia Law

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Appellant Joan Grove was awarded a jury verdict of $250,000.00 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in a personal injury action against Appellee, Port Authority of Allegheny County. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court vacated the award of damages and remanded for a new trial on the basis that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on negligence per se. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allocatur to determine whether the trial court’s failure to give a negligence per se charge, where the jury nevertheless found Grove negligent, amounted to error because the negligence per se charge was relevant to apportionment of factual cause. The Supreme Court concluded it did. Because the jury found Grove negligent, any perceived error in failing to instruct on negligence per se was harmless error. Importantly, the Commonwealth Court did not make a finding of prejudice in its harmless error analysis; “it merely opined the proposed instructions could have influenced the jury. The standard is not that the omitted instructions could have influenced the jury. Prejudice is required. A lack of any prejudice analysis undermines the Commonwealth Court’s conclusion that the error was not harmless.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order reversing the trial court and granting Port Authority a new trial. This matter was remanded to the Commonwealth Court for disposition of Grove’s cross-appeal. View "Grove v. Port Authority of Allegheny County" on Justia Law

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Susan Yanakos suffered from a genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD). In the summer of 2003, one of Susan’s physicians, Dr. Amadeo Marcos, advised her that she needed a liver transplant due to the progression of her AATD. Because Susan was not a candidate for a cadaver liver, her son Christopher volunteered to donate a lobe of his liver to his mother. Christopher advised one of his mother’s physicians that several of his family members suffered from AATD, but that he was unsure whether he did as well. Additional laboratory tests for Christopher were ordered, but Christopher was never informed him of the results, which allegedly showed that Christopher had AATD and was not a candidate for liver donation. One month after Christopher’s consultation with physicians, surgery proceeded; a portion of Christopher’s liver was removed and transplanted into Susan. More than twelve years later, Christopher, Susan, and Susan’s husband, William Yanakos sued UPMC, and the doctors involved, raising claims for battery/lack of informed consent, medical malpractice, and loss of consortium. The Yanakoses alleged that they did not discover Appellees’ negligence until eleven years after the transplant surgery, when additional testing revealed that Susan still had AATD, which the transplant should have eliminated. In this appeal by allowance, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was whether the seven-year statute of repose in Section 1303.513(a) of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (MCARE Act) comported with Article I, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Because the Court concluded the seven-year statute of repose was not substantially related to an important government interest, it reversed the Superior Court’s order affirming the trial court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings and remanded for further proceedings. View "Yanakos. v. UPMC, et al" on Justia Law

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Kenneth and Theresa-Ramondo purchased a property in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1991 known as a “flag lot:” a narrow strip (the “pole”) that connected the main portion to a public street. The Ramondo pole extended six hundred feet from Garrett Mill Road to the main portion of the Ramondo property, the flag portion, which was approximately 5.62 acres. Thaddeus Bartkowski, III, and Crystal Anne Crawford (“the Bartkowskis”) bought the neighboring property 2012, which was also a flag lot. The pole of the Bartkowski property, also measuring twenty-five feet wide, abutted and ran parallel with the Ramondos’ pole. The flag portion of the Bartkowski property was approximately 5.25 acres. The portion of land at issue in this appeal involved the adjoining Ramondo and Bartkowski poles, upon which the Ramondos constructed a driveway that gave them access to Garrett Mill Road. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal to consider whether a landowner had to prove impossibility of alternative access arising from zoning and regulatory prohibitions or conditions of the land in order to establish an easement by necessity. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s order denying the Ramondos an easement by necessity based upon the theory that establishing necessity requires proving impossibility of alternative access. The Supreme Court concluded this was error, reversed the Superior Court, remanded for further proceedings. View "Bartkowski v. Ramondo" on Justia Law