Tuesday, September 18, 2018

PA Eastern Federal District Court Finds Long Arm Statute for Personal Jurisdiction Not Abrogated



In the case of Allstate Insurance Company v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc., No. 5:18-00699(E.D. Pa. Aug. 3, 2018 Leeson, J.), the court granted a Motion to Sever and Transfer a portion of the case.

The court ruled that the Plaintiff’s Complaint, joining together 86 separate subrogated incidents from many different states, could not stand before the Eastern District Federal Court.  

This decision is notable in that the court reaffirmed the rule that registration to do business in Pennsylvania, without more, is sufficient to establish general personal jurisdiction over a corporate Defendant.

Judge Leeson also reaffirmed the precedent holding that cases interpreting the Pennsylvania long arm statute in this regard have not be abrogated by more recent United States Supreme Court precedent.  

Relative to the claims in this matter, which arose under different states’ laws, the court felt that the claims should be severed.   After severance, the cases are considered to be separate cases, and many of them in this matter were found to fail to satisfy the diversity amount in controversy requirement, which necessitated the dismissal of those claims.   The remaining valid non-Pennsylvania cases  were ordered to be transferred to a more appropriate forum. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK.  The Court's Order can be viewed HERE

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

Personal Jurisdiction Issues Reviewed by Judge Brann in PA Federal Middle District Court Case


In the  products liability case of Mendoza v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc., No. 4:17-02028 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 20, 2018 Brann, J.), the court reviewed various personal jurisdiction issues and denied a Plaintiff’s Motion for a Re-transfer of a Case.  

Of note, the court ruled that, since an argument of a lack of personal jurisdiction is waivable, and given that the Defendants had consciously waived personal jurisdiction issues in this matter, the Plaintiffs could not rely upon the lack of such jurisdiction to support a re-transfer of this action.  

Judge Brann otherwise held that Defendants that have registered to do business in Pennsylvania thereby consent to the exercise of personal jurisdiction by Pennsylvania courts.  

Judge Brann additionally reviewed Pennsylvania cases in this context and found that cases interpreting Pennsylvania’s long arm statute have not been abrogated by more recent United States Supreme Court precedent. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this   The court's Order can be viewed HERE.

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




Punitive Damages and Corporate Negligence Claims Against a Summer Camp Addressed By Judge Mannion


In the case of Goodfellow v. Shohola, Inc., No. 3:16-1521 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 21, 2018 Mannion, J.), the court granted in part and denied in part a Motion to Dismiss in a case involving alleged negligent medical care provided by a summer camp to the Plaintiff's child..    

Judge Malachy E. Mannion
M.D. Pa.
In part, the court ruled that, where the Plaintiffs’ original Complaint pled a plausible factual basis for punitive damages, even though the original Complaint did not request such damages.  Later punitive damages allegations asserted by the Plaintiff were deemed to relate back and were, therefore, not barred by the statute of limitations.

In another notable decision in this matter, the court ruled that an overnight camp is not the type of entity that can be held liable on a corporate negligence medical malpractice claim.   The court found only that a comprehensive health center with responsibility for arranging and coordinating the total health of its patients can be subject to such corporate negligence liability.  

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

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm, and writer of the excellent Drug and Device Law Blog, for bringing this case to my attention.






Monday, September 17, 2018

Judge Caputo of Federal Middle District Addresses Proper Pleadings for a UIM Breach of Contract Claim


In the case of Swientisky v. American States Insurance Company, No. 3:18-cv-1159 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2018 Caputo, J.), the court granted in part and denied in part the UIM carrier’s Motion to Dismiss relative to a UIM claim asserted by the Plaintiff. 

According to the Opinion, this matter involved a UIM claim in which bad faith was not pled.   Rather, this was a breach of contract claim that included allegations of generic violations of the Motor Vehicle Responsibility Law in support of a claim for UIM benefits.  

The UIM carrier filed a Motion to Dismiss asserting that allegations of improper claim handling should be stricken from the Complaint because such alleged improper claim handling was not relevant to a cause of action in which bad faith has not been pled.

The court disagreed and found that improper claim handling could be relevant to a contract claim, even in the absence of bad faith, because the decision-making during the claims handling could go to the reasoning behind the denial of the contract claim.  

On another issue, the UIM carrier asserted that the court should dismiss, or order a more definite statement, with respect to the insured’s unidentified statutory violations given that the Plaintiff had failed to allege any bad faith violation or identify the provisions of the MVFRL that the carrier allegedly violated.

Judge A. Richard Caputo
Pa. M.D. Ct.
Judge Caputo dismissed this statutory count in the Complaint given that the Plaintiff had failed to plead an alleged statutory violation with any detail and given that the facts pled did not set forth such alleged wrongdoing. 

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

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Applebaum of the Philadelphia law firm of Fineman Krekstein & Harris, and writer of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Insurance Bad Faith Case Law blog, for bringing this case to my attention.    

Friday, September 14, 2018

TORT TALK PRACTICE TIP


PUT YOUR SUMMARY LETTERS INTO CONTEXT

When writing a letter summarizing medical records or other documents to a client or a claims representative overburdened with hundreds of files to manage, it may help the reader to put the case into context.  A suggested way to do this may be to start all letters in the following fashion:

Dear __________:

Please allow this letter to serve as a status report in the above matter.

We recently received the enclosed records from Dr. John Jones, the Plaintiff's family doctor.  What follows is a concise summarization of the same.

As you may recall, this matter arises out of a September 1, 2016 rear end motor vehicle accident that occurred on Main Street in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.  The Plaintiff primarily alleges neck and back injuries.


With these introductory paragraphs in the letter, the reader can refer back to see the date of the accident as they follow along the chronology of the treatment history contained in the summary letter.

Also, if the summary letter reviews an extensive prior medical history along with a lengthy post-accident treatment history, be sure to include a one line paragraph in the appropriate spot in the chronology that reads:

As stated, the rear end subject accident occurred on September 1, 2016.

Again, this will put the history of the case into context for the reader for his or her ease of understanding.





Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Summary Judgment Granted in Claim That Employee Was Driving Drunk


In the case of Huff v. Moser, No. Civil 14-S-773(C.P. Adams Co. May 14, 2018 George, J.), Judge Michael A. George of the Adams County Court of Common Pleas issued a Rule 1925 Opinion requesting the Superior Court to affirm his entry of summary judgment in a fatal motor vehicle accident case.     

In his trial court decision, Judge George concluded that the Plaintiff’s Complaint failed to allege a viable claim for vicarious liability on the part of a Defendant employer for actions of the employee who allegedly struck and killed a victim while driving the company car under the influence of alcohol. 

The court ruled in this fashion as none of the negligence allegations involved conduct committed during the course and scope of the driver’s employment.   The court emphasized that there were no specific allegations in the Complaint that the Defendant driver was working or acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.   

The court additionally noted that, even if the Plaintiff had properly pled a claim for vicarious liability on the part of the employer for the actions of the driver, there was a lack of any factual dispute that would entitle the case to proceed to a jury on the liability issues presented.  

More specifically, the court noted that it appeared to the Plaintiff’s claim that the employer had a duty to secure a vehicle from being operated by an unlicensed driver who had been expressly prohibited from operating the vehicle. Judge George stated that he had not located any case law which placed a duty upon one to take affirmative steps to avoid criminal acts of another where there was no obvious known risk of such criminal acts.  

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

Source:  “Digest of Recent Cases.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 24, 2018).  




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Expert Testimony Needed on Alternative Design Theories in Products Cases

In the case of Dunlap v. Fed. Signal Corp., 2018 Pa. Super. 231 (Pa. Super. Aug. 20, 2018 Bowes, J., Lazaurs, J., Ott, J.) (Op. by Bowes, J.)(Lazarus, J., Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment for a Defendant in a products liability case in which it was asserted that the design of the siren caused the hearing loss of a class of firefighters.   The court ruled that an alternative product design’s compliance with governmental or industries standards, in the absence of expert testimony, was insufficient to establish that an alleged defective product was unreasonable dangerous.  

More specifically, the Superior Court agreed with the trial court’s finding that the Plaintiffs required expert testimony to establish that an alternative design of the siren just as an effective warning device for all persons, such as pedestrians, as the Plaintiff’s reference to the industry standard was not an acceptable substitute for such required expert testimony.   

Ultimately, the Superior Court affirmed the finding that the Plaintiffs’ expert’s failure to opine on the alternative design of the siren for the safety for pedestrians and motorists was fatal to the Plaintiff’s claim that the alternative design was an acceptable alternative design that would render the Defendant’s currently designed siren unreasonably dangerous.  

 Anyone wishing to review a copy of  Majority Opinion for this decision may click this LINK.  The Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE   

Sources:  “Court Summaries by the Clawges of the Pennsylvania Bar News (Sept. 10, 2018).   I also send thanks to Attorney Kenneth T. Newman of the Pittsburgh office of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer for bringing this case to my attention.