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Green v. Trustee of the Univ. of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Superior Court

October 19, 2021

The following is a cautionary tale for attorneys who venture outside their area of expertise into unfamiliar specialized areas of litigation without educating themselves on the applicable rules and law. Attorney Jacobson filed a complaint on behalf of Ms. Green sounding in medical malpractice and intentional torts. Ms. Green alleged that Dr. Rosenfeld, an internist referred to her by employees or agents of the Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, hypnotized and sexually assaulted her. Ms. Green’s claims against Dr. Rosenfeld and his professional corporation sounded in medical negligence and lack of informed consent, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Attorneys for Dr. Rosenfeld sent a request pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1042.9 to Attorney Jacobson for the written statement from a licensed professional upon which he relied in filing a certificate of merit against Dr. Rosenfeld. Attorney Jacobson did not respond. Consequently, Dr. Rosenfeld filed a motion for sanctions. Attorney Jacobson did not respond. The trial court granted the motion and imposed sanctions of more than $80k. Attorney Jacobson appealed, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed. The Court ruled that “the trial court was charged with determining whether sanctions were warranted and, if so, imposing appropriate sanctions for the harm caused by the improper certificate of merit. The fact that the motion was unopposed did not relieve the trial court of its judicial duty to exercise its discretion, make the necessary findings, and explain its rationale for the decision.” The trial court abused its discretion because there was no indication that the court analyzed what harm Attorney Jacobson’s conduct caused or whether or what sanctions were appropriate.

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