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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

Erie Ins. Exchange v. Bristol: SOL on UM claims begins to run at refusal to arbitrate

Posted by on Nov 23, 2017 in Civil, Insurance, Statutes of Limitations | 0 comments

On July 22, 2005, Mr. Bristol was injured when he was struck in a hit and run accident within the scope of his employment in Upper Dublin Township (childhood home of Josh Singer, an Emmy-nominee and Oscar winner). Two years later, Bristol’s attorney put Erie on notice of the uninsured motorist (UM) claim, and Erie responded with a “reservation of rights” letter. Both parties agreed to several of the arbitrators and engaged in negotiation. Bristol had to put the matter on hold for a few years when he was incarcerated on unrelated matters. But...

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In re Roca, In re Segal: No, we can’t just ignore the Constitution

Posted by on Nov 23, 2017 in Attorney Discipline, Civil, Constitutional Provisions | 0 comments

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is, perhaps, the most powerful state Supreme Court within its own jurisdiction. Given comprehensive power over all attorney discipline matters by the state Constitution, our Supreme Court has struck down validly-passed statutes that transgress this judicial power. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court also maintains “King’s Bench” authority to step into any case at any time and render a decision on any matter, great or small, within a case. Other jurisdictions limit their high courts by practice or rule. These cases...

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Com v. Maconeghy, Jr.: Medical testimony based on nothing but another witness’s testimony is not all right, all right, all right

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Criminal, Expert Testimony, Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence | 0 comments

In a criminal prosecution about sexual assault of a child, a medical doctor opined, “The history [the child] provided to me pretty clearly indicated that she was sexually abused.” The doctor concluded with this classic statement of scientific certainty: “I really believe strongly that was my medical conclusion that this child was victimized.” Can a doctor testify to a medical opinion based entirely on the “history” provided by the alleged victim? Our Supreme Court rules that the doctor cannot offer such testimony because such testimony...

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Com. v. Spotz: This is getting old

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Criminal | 0 comments

The Post-Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) allows a criminal defendant to file a petition within one year of final judgment seeking review of his conviction. This protection ensures that every criminal defendant will have at least two chances to prove that a mistake sent them to prison—or worse, to death row. The Supreme Court of Pennsylania maintains mandatory and exclusive jurisdiction of all death penalty appeals, whether on direct or collateral action. This includes PCRA appeals—even where the PCRA board found that the petition was totally...

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City of Arnold v. Wage Policy Comm. Of Arnold Police Department: Hey Arnold! We’re going to Arbitration

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A police widow in Arnold, Pennsylvania (home to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood Musical Director, Johnny Costa), received 50% of her husband’s pension for several years before a helpful state auditor caught the “mistake.” The city sent her notice of the change, and informed her that her pension would be cut down to 25%, and that the city would graciously enforce a loan repayment plan on the widow in the amount of $10 a month out of her new, lower pension. The police union filed a grievance, and litigated the matter before an arbitrator, who...

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Nextel v. Commonwealth: Uniformity Clause Bars Flat Cap for Taxes, but Statute is Severable

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Tax Law | 0 comments

When paying corporate income tax in Pennsylvania, a corporation is permitted to carry over a net loss from the previous year to reduce the current tax year’s taxable income. However, the amount of deduction the corporation may receive—the amount of “net loss” it may carry over from the prior year—is capped at the greater of 12.5% of its current tax year income, or a flat cap of $3 million. Nextel’s 2007 deduction from its 2006 net losses was capped at 12.5% of its 2007 income because this was greater than the $3 million flat fee cap. Nextel...

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In re DCD: Best Interests of a Juvenile Delinquent Beat out Concerns over Community Welfare

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Criminal, Juvenile | 0 comments

DCD, a ten-year-old child with a low IQ, was adjudicated delinquent after sexually assaulting his younger sister. Several sexual assaults followed as DCD was moved from facility to facility and given treatments that ultimately did not help him progress. After several assaults, there were few facilities that were open to him, due to his record, his young age, the lack of contracts with the county, and his specific needs. One facility was eligible to take him, but would not because of their agreement with the local township not to take...

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Burke v. Independence Blue Cross: Legislature intended autism treatment to be offered in schools

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 in Civil, Insurance | 0 comments

The Autism Coverage Law requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autism treatment under certain group plans. One coverage specifically included in the statute is “applied behavioral analysis” (“ABA”). However, the statute allows companies to maintain “general exclusions or limitations of a health insurance policy.” ABA is defined as: the design, implementation and evaluation of environmental modifications, using behavioral stimuli and consequences, to produce socially significant improvement in human behavior or to prevent loss of...

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Coughlin v. Massaquoi: No per se Requirement for Corroborating Evidence before BAC is admissible in a civil case

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Admissibility, Civil, Rules of Evidence | 0 comments

When is blood alcohol content (BAC) admissible in a civil case to prove negligence (including contributory negligence)? In the context of a car accident, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has previously held that “the word drinking . . . carries the inevitable connotation of considerable drinking,” Harvey v. Doliner, 399 Pa. 356 (1960), and that courts must be careful to weigh the prejudice resulting from such connotations against the relevance of the evidence under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 403. The Superior Court has taken this ruling...

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Com v. Jacoby: Capital Appeal: Introduction of unconstitutionally seized murder weapon evidence was harmless error

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Frye Test, Murder, Suppression | 0 comments

The opening paragraph of this case read like an Alfred Hitchcock screenplay. The police received a call that originated from Monica Schmeyer’s residence . . . When the police arrived, they found Monica Schmeyer dead on her living room flolr. Blood droplets and stains surrounded her body. The telephone was off the hook; there was blood on the 9 and the 1. There was also a .32 caliber Speer branded shell casing on the floor near Monica Schmeyer’s body. In Commonwealth v. Jacoby, a direct capital appeal, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rules...

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