Friday, January 24, 2020

CAN YOU PLEASE SERVE AS A MOCK TRIAL JUROR?


The Lackawanna Bar Association Young Lawyers Division is in need of volunteer jurors for the 2020 High School Mock Trial Competition. As in years' past, the YLD is excited to bring local attorneys into the courtroom to help evaluate our local high school students as they present a case in front of a local judge. Please come out and support by being a juror!

- Round 1 begins Tuesday-
January 28 at 6:00 p.m.
5 Trials

**SNOW DATE - Wednesday, January 29**

Contact
Ryan

or

Kaitlin
kmcdonough@lackawannabar.org or (570)969-9161


Jurors also needed for Round II
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
6:00 p.m.
**SNOW DATE - Wednesday, February 5**

Eastern Federal District Court of PA Rules That Snowtubing Activities Do Not Fall Under Skier's Responsibility Act


Does Pennsylvania's Skier's Responsibility Act apply to snowtubing?

In what appears to be a case of first impression, the court in the case of Amadeo v. Spring Mountain Adventures, Inc., No. 18-2472 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 1, 2019 Kenney, J.), denied a Defendant's motion for summary judgment and ruled that protections afforded to defendant ski resorts under Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act do not apply to snowtubing activities.

According to the short matter-of-fact Opinion of the court, the Plaintiff injured her ankle when her snow tube hit a barrier at the end of a run.

The defense filed a motion for summary judgment under Pennsylvania's Skier's Responsibility Act and argued that, under that Act, snowtubing activities carry inherent risks that a participant assumes when engaging in such activities.

The court here noted that no prior decisions had ruled that snowtubing activities fell under the ambit of the Act which is focused on downhill skiing activities.  The court in this Amadeo case predicted that, if faced with the issue, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would fall on the side that favors plaintiffs and would rule that snowtubing should be viewed as an "inherently benign" activity under Pennsylvania law.

As such, since the court found that the Skier's Responsibility Act did not support the granting of the Defendant's motion for summary judgment, the motion was denied.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The companion Order can be viewed HERE.

Postscript:  According to this LINK to a page on the defendant's website, the defendant is no longer able to offer snowtubing activities at its location due to a change in insurance coverage, which coverage does not provide liability protection for snowtubing activities.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Skiing Accident Case Survives Summary Judgment


In the case of Kozlowski v. JFBB Ski Areas, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-353 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 12, 2019 Mariani, J.), the court addressed a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of a Defendant in a case arising out of a skiing accident that occurred at the Big Boulder Ski Resort. The Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging a claim of negligence and a count in gross negligence/recklessness.

In his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged that he was skiing at Big Boulder ski resort and, as it came to an intersection of trails, he followed tracks which led to an embankment at the edge of a catwalk. The Plaintiff additionally alleged that, as he skied down the embankment, he suddenly and unexpectedly collided with partially exposed snowmaking pipes which alleged could not be seen from a reasonable safe distance in the area where he was skiing. The Plaintiff alleges injuries as a result.
Before the court was a Motion for Summary Judgment by the Defendant asserting that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act, the common law construing that act, and the release found on Big Boulder’s ski lift ticket.
The court denied the motion on various grounds.
Judge Robert D. Mariani
M.D.Pa.
Relative to the defense claim that the Plaintiff’s negligence count was barred by the assumption of risk doctrine as bound under the Skier’s Responsibility Act, the court noted that the Defendant had not established, as a matter of law, that the risk at issue (colliding with hidden snowmaking pipes) is not inherent in the sport of downhill skiing.
On the claims of gross negligence and/or recklessness, the court decided that judgment could not be entered on the current record as the case was not entirely free from doubt. As such, the court allowed this issue to go to the jury. 

Relative to the validity of the Release language contained on the Big Boulder lift ticket, the court noted that, since it had ruled that the question of gross negligence and/or recklessness could not be determined that this stayed the proceeding, the validity of the lift ticket release provision, and whether it applied to claims of gross negligence and recklessness, also could not be determined on the current record before the court. 

For these reasons, the court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendant.
Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Pennsylvania Skier's Responsibility Act Applies to Plaintiff Hurt While Standing in Line at Ski Lift


In the case of Borden v. Grossberger, No. 187-Civil-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 10, 2019 Harlacher-Sibum, J.), granted a Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in a snowboarding accident case. 

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff asserted that she was injured when the minor Defendant, who was snowboarding at the time, struck the Plaintiff as she waited in line to board the ski lift. 

The Plaintiff filed suit against the minor, the parents of the minor, and the ski resort. 

The minor Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings alleging that the Plaintiff’s claims against him were barred by the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §7102(c). 

The court in this snowboarding case noted that previous appellate court decisions have held that the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act applies equally to snowboarders. 

Also, from the perspective of the skier Plaintiff, Judge Harlacher Sibum also noted that the sport of downhill skiing to which the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act is to be interpreted broadly and is not strictly limited to those times where a person is actually skiing downhill. Rather, the courts have held that other activities directly and necessarily incident to the act of downhill skiing, such as boarding a ski lift, riding a lift up the mountains, a lighting from the lift, and engaging in other skiing activities, all fall under the scope of the act. 

In this matter, the Plaintiff, who was standing at the base of a hill and waiting to get on a ski lift, was attempting to assert that she was not in engaging the sport of downhill skiing at the time she was struck by the snowboarder. 

The court ruled that the language of the Plaintiff’s Complaint, which confirmed that the Plaintiff was in line to board the ski lift, brought the Plaintiff’s case under the Act. The court noted that it would be “a tortured reading of the Complaint to reach the conclusion that Plaintiff was in the line for any other purpose.” 

Having determined that the Plaintiff was engaged in the sport of downhill skiing, the court continued its analysis under the Act and determined that the case law confirms that being struck by other skiers is an inherent risk of the sport of downhill skiing. 

 As such, Judge Harlacher Sibum held that the Pennsylvania Skier’s Responsibility Act applied and served to support a finding that the Plaintiff’s claims against the minor Plaintiff were barred by the assumption of risk doctrine as preserved under that Act. Accordingly, the court entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Defendant snowboarder who allegedly crashed into the Plaintiff.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of his decision may click this LINK.
I send thanks to Attorney Hugh J. Gillespie of the Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania Law Offices of Lester G. Weinraub for bringing this case to my attention.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

PLEASE SIGN UP TO BE A MOCK TRIAL JUROR


The Lackawanna Bar Association Young Lawyers Division is in need of volunteer jurors for the 2020 High School Mock Trial Competition. As in years' past, the YLD is excited to bring local attorneys into the courtroom to help evaluate our local high school students as they present a case in front of a local judge. Please come out and support by being a juror!

- Round 1 begins Tuesday-
January 28 at 6:00 p.m.
5 Trials

**SNOW DATE - Wednesday, January 29**

Contact
Ryan

or

Kaitlin
kmcdonough@lackawannabar.org or (570)969-9161


Jurors also needed for Round II
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
6:00 p.m.
**SNOW DATE - Wednesday, February 5**

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds that Defendants Can Pursue Cross-Claims Even After Plaintiff Settles Out


In the case of Bollard & Assoc., Inc. v. PA Assoc., 2019 Pa. Super. 345 (Pa. Super. Nov. 19, 2019) (Op. by Collins, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that a trial court committed reversible error when it marked the case discontinued in its entirety based upon the settlement and the discontinuance of the Plaintiff’s claims against all Defendants where there is no evidence that the settlement of the Plaintiff’s claims resolved or barred the Defendants’ cross-claims.

This case arose out of allegations of fraudulent transfers.

The appellate court noted that the Defendants should have been able to continue to pursue their cross-claims for indemnity and contribution even though the Plaintiff had settled out.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 10, 2019).



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Summary Judgment Granted in Bad Faith Matter Involving Unlicensed Driver


In the case of Lewandowski v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., No. 18-1441 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 20, 2019 Bissoon, J.), the court granted the carrier’s Motion for Summary Judgment on coverage and bad faith issues. 

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff loaned her car to her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to her, the boyfriend’s license was suspended. The boyfriend got into an accident and, thereafter, the carrier denied coverage based upon an exclusion for drivers driving with suspended licenses. 

The Plaintiff sued for breach of contract and bad faith. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. 

The court analyzed the exclusion at issue and found that it applied to support the carrier’s denial of coverage. In so ruling, the court denied the insured’s efforts to read the policy differently. The court noted that it was applying the words of the policy in their natural, plain, and ordinary sense. 

As such, the court held that the insured’s attempts to read ambiguity into the policy where none existed cannot demonstrate bad faith or breach of contract as a matter of law. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Applebaum of the Philadelphia law office of Fineman, Krekstein & Harris for bringing this case to my attention. Please be sure to check out Attorney Applebaum’s excellent Pennsylvania and New Jersey Insurance Bad Faith Case Law blog for continuing updates on important Pennsylvania bad faith cases.