Friday, June 25, 2021

Pennsylvania Superior Court Addresses Collateral Estoppel With Respect to Prior Criminal Conviction

In the case of Rogers v. Thomas, No. 2021 Pa. Super. 93 (Pa. Super. May 11, 2021) (Op. by McLaughlin, J.) (Stabile, J., concurring and dissenting), the court found that, in a wrongful death shooting civil litigation that took place after the shooter was previously convicted in a criminal case, that the trial court erred in permitting a jury to determine whether or not the shooter Defendant was negligent since had already been criminally convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

The court ruled that the shooter Defendant was collaterally estopped from re-litigating his liability where there was a criminal conviction in place from a prior criminal trial. The court ruled that the previous criminal conviction prevented the Defendant from denying, in a subsequent civil case, things that were necessarily proven in the criminal case, absent extraordinary circumstances.

However, the court disagreed with the Plaintiff’s argument that the Defendant’s criminal conviction also established that Co-Defendants that were related to the shooter were also negligent. Rather, the court found that the Plaintiff were required to prove additional facts beyond the shooter Defendant’s negligence to show that the other Co-Defendants were potentially liable.

The court also disagreed with the Plaintiff’s argument that the trial court had erred in allowing the jury to determine comparative negligence in terms of the shooting victim. The court agreed with the trial court that these issues had not been litigated in the criminal trial.

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

The Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Judge Stabile can be viewed HERE.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (June 1, 2021).

Source of image:  Tingley Injury Law Firm via Unsplash.

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