Monday, June 26, 2017

Summary Judgment Denied to Landowner In Slip and Fall Case But Granted For Snow Removal Contractor

In the case of Graham v. K Investments, Ltd., No. 4376-2014 (C.P. Monroe Co. March 13, 2017 Zulick, J.), Judge Arthur Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas denied a restaurant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a slip and fall case.   However, the court did grant summary judgment in favor of a snow removal contractor.  

Relative to the claims against the landowner, the court noted that a snow storm had occurred nine (9) days prior to the Plaintiff’s accident.  

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
Monroe County
When the Defendant restaurant moved for summary judgment based upon the hills and ridges doctrine, the court accepted the Claimant’s argument that the doctrine was not applicable because generally slippery conditions did not prevail in the community at the time of the incident. Moreover, the Plaintiff asserted that this case involved a localized patch of ice.  As such, the motion for summary judgment based upon the hills and ridges doctrine was denied.

The court otherwise found no evidence of negligence against the snow removal contractor who was last on the premises nine days before the incident.

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

Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (May 2, 2017). 

Summary Judgment Based Upon Hills and Ridges Doctrine Denied

In the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas case of Holtzapple v. Dunkleburger, No. 15-1666 (C.P. Lycoming Co. March 15, 2017 Gray, J.), Judge Richard A. Gray of the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas denied a Defendant’s Motion based upon the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff slipped and fell on ice outside of a café on his way into the establishment.   It was not snowing at the time of the incident, but a light dusting of snow was on the ground.  

The court held that the Hills and Ridges Doctrine did not apply because the Plaintiff allegedly fell on a localized patch of black ice.   The court additionally noted that it was sunny and not snowing at the time of the incident such that there were not generally slippery conditions existing at the time of the incident was required by the application of the Hills and Ridges Doctrine.

As such, the court found that a material issue of fact existed as to whether or not the Defendant had actual constructive knowledge of the condition of the premises.    

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Petition to Enforce Settlement Granted in Monroe County Case

In his recent decision in the case of Wise v. Hyundai Motor Company, No. 3777 Civil 2011 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 16, 2016 Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson addressed a Motion to Enforce Settlement and, after reviewing the law of whether a valid contract of settlement had been reached between the parties, granted the same.  

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Decisions” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (May 30, 2017).  

Petition to Enforce Medical Malpractice Settlement Granted in Lackawanna County

In his recent decision in the medical malpractice case of Brink v. Mallik, No. 2013-CV-1314 (C.P. Lacka. Co. June 9, 2017 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon reviewed the current status of the law of settlements in his assessment of a Petition to Enforce a settlement.  In the end, the court granted the Petition and found that an apparent unilateral mistake by one party as to the scope of the terms of the settlement did not support a denial of the Petition.

Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.



When a Trial Management Order is issued read the Order in its entirety--Judges expect them to be followed to the letter. Immediately have all deadlines marked on your calendar.

Also mark a tickler on your calendar at least 45 days before the start of trial to re-read the Trial Management Order and get started on all materials that have to be filed by certain deadlines such as Trial Briefs, Motions in Limine, Proposed Voir Dire Questions, Proposed Points for Charge, and the like.

Take the time to draft an excellent Trial Brief that thoroughly advances your client's case and argues all anticipated legal issues in your client's favor.  There may come times during trial where the Judge, bored with the tedium of trial, may pick up your Trial Brief to skim or read to pass the time, all to the potential benefit of your client's case.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bankruptcy Court Addresses Impact of Bankruptcy Stay on Ability of Plaintiff To Proceed on Personal Injury Action

A recurring issue in civil litigation matters is the effect of a Bankruptcy Stay on the ability of a plaintiff to proceed on a personal injury action against a person in bankruptcy.

In the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle  District case of In Re: Betty L. Morris, No. 1-14-bk-03161 RNO (April 28, 2017), the court addressed a Claimant’s desire to move forward in a state court personal injury action to pursue only the extent of the available liability insurance coverage despite a bankruptcy stay.  

According to the Opinion, the Chapter 7 debtor received a bankruptcy in October of 2014.   The case was reopened in February of 2017 to consider a motion filed by a personal injury Claimant who commenced a pre-bankruptcy state court action against the debtor.   The state court action arose out of a motor vehicle accident against the debtor. 

The Claimant moved for a declaration from the bankruptcy court that her state court action, in which she wished to only pursue the extent of the available liability insurance coverage, is not stayed by the discharge injunction imposed by §524 of the bankruptcy code.

After a review of the matter before it, the court concluded that the state court personal injury action was not stayed and could proceed.  

Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott E. Diamond of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm of Sacks Weston Diamond, LLC for bringing this case to my attention. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Judge Conaboy of Federal Middle District Court Rules On Punitive Damages Issues In Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Case

In his recent decision in the commercial motor vehicle accident case of Kane v. DG Express, No. 3:16-CV-216 (M.D.Pa. May 18, 2017 Conaboy, J.), Judge Richard P. Conaboy denied the defendants’ Motion in Limine seeking to preclude Plaintiff’s punitive damages claim. The decision held that a Motion in Limine is an inappropriate vehicle for an effect -- the preclusion of a claim – that should have been the subject of a case dispositive motion, such as a motion to dismiss at the pleadings stage, or a motion for summary judgment after the conclusion of discovery. 

Judge Conaboy also denied the Defendants’ Motion in Limine which sought to preclude the testimony of Plaintiff’s liability expert witness. In so doing, the Court noted that it was persuaded that expert testimony regarding what level of competence and care a professional driver should exhibit, and what risks such a driver must necessarily anticipate, may assist the jury in determining whether the negligence already admitted by the Defendants rose to the level of reckless indifference that is necessary to support an award of punitive damages.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to the prevailing Plaintiff's Attorney Richard A. Russo of the Wilkes-Barre, PA law firm of Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald for bringing this case to my attention.