Thursday, March 26, 2020

Superior Court Adopts Test For Staying a Civil Lawsuit While Criminal Charges Pending

In a case of first impression, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled in Keesee v. Dougherty, 2020 Pa. Super. 64 (Pa. Super. March 16, 2020 Bowes, J., Olson, J., Stabile, J.)(Op. by Olson, J.), that a trial court judge must reconsider her refusal to stay a civil lawsuit while a companion criminal case is pending.

The lawsuit in this matter was brought by a nonunion electrical contractor against an indicted union boss and other defendants.

With its ruling the Pennsylvania Superior Court adopted the six-factor test established by the federal courts for determining whether to stay a civil case pending resolution of a related criminal matter.  The court cited to the federal case of In re Adelphia Communications, No. 02-1781, 2003 WL 22358819 (E.D. Pa. 2003).

The six factors to be addressed by a trial court in determining whether to stay a civil case pending the resolution of a companion criminal case are, as follows:

1.         The extent to which the issues in the civil and criminal cases overlap

2.          The status of the criminal proceedings and whether any Defendants have been indicted  

3.         The Plaintiff’s interests in an expeditious civil proceeding weighed against the prejudice to the Plaintiff caused by the delay

4.         The burden on the Defendants

5.         The interests of the court

6.         The public interests

In Keesee v. Dougherty, a three-judge Superior Court panel unanimously reversed a decision by the trial court judge who denied the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings.  The Superior Court remanded the case for further consideration.

The Keesee decision is also notable for the Superior Court's analysis and application of the collateral order doctrine to allow the review of this appeal in the first place.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

Source:  Article: "Judge Ordered to Reconsider Motion to Stay Civil Suit Against 'Johnny Doc' Pending Criminal Case" by Zack Needles of The Legal Intelligencer (March 18, 2020).

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