Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cumberland County Trial Court Comes Down in Favor of Severance Again in Post-Koken Cases

President Judge Kevin Hess of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas issued an Order on February 2, 2012 directing the severance of the liability claims (negligence) and the UIM claims (breach of contract) found in a single Complaint into separate trials in the case of Stumpf v. Erie Ins. Exchange and Barricklow, No. 2011 - Civil - 7290 (C.P. Cumb. Co. Feb. 2, 2012 Hess, P.J.).

Judge Hess also ordered that the liability(negligence) case would be tried first. The matters were allowed to remain joined together for all other pretrial proceedings including discovery. There was no bad faith claim in this case.

Tort Talkers may recall that, back on September 1, 2011, Judge M. L. Ebert of Cumberland County granted severance and ordered separate trials in the case of Henry v. Amin and Westfield Insurance Co. In the Henry case, the severance issue was decided on preliminary objections. In this more recent Stumpf case, Judge Hess granted a pre-trial motion for severance pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 213(b).

I send thanks to the prevailing defense counsel for Erie Insurance, John A. Statler of the Lemoyne, PA law firm of Johnson, Duffy, Stewart & Weidner for advising me of this decision.  The prevailing defense counsel for the tortfeasor defendant was Attorney Hugh P. O'Neill, III of the Harrisburg, PA office of the Thomas, Thomas & Hafer law firm.

Anyone desiring a copy of the court's one line Order in Stumpf may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

Don't forget to scroll down the right hand column of Tort Talk (http://www.torttalk.com/) to view the Post-Koken Scorecard to research how different counties are approaching these novel issues.  There is still no appellate decision to date on the severance vs. consolidation issue.

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