Opinion Summaries for the


Below are our summaries of last week’s precedential appellate decisions from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state courts, as well as the Third Circuit. Click on a case name, and you will be redirected to the court’s entire opinion.


PENNSYLVANIA

Commonwealth v. Davis (Criminal Law, Automobile Exception, Plain View)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court worked to clarify the difference between the automobile and plain view exceptions to the warrant requirement. Where, as here, contraband is in a vehicle as well as an officer’s plain view, the automobile exception and its exigent-circumstance requirement do not apply. Instead, the plain view exception applies.


Commonwealth v. Cunningham (Suppression, Terry frisk)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that an officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry frisk because the officer reasonably feared for his safety. The defendant and two other men were “acting aggressive” toward an officer while he tried to get their names and IDs.

Judge McCaffery filed a dissenting opinion.


Commonwealth v. Mendoza (Criminal Law, Suppression)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order. The Court distinguished this case from Commonwealth v. Nicholson and ruled that there was a sufficient nexus between the defendant’s residence and his drug activities to establish probable cause to search the house. 


Commonwealth v. Bankes (Criminal Law, Sentencing)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the defendant’s de facto life sentence of 50 to 140 years’ incarceration for rape of a child and related offenses. The Court found no error even though the individual penalties imposed were at the top of the sentencing guidelines’ ranges and consecutive.


Reibenstein v. Barax (Civil Law, Statutory Interpretation, Wrongful Death)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the phrase “cause of death” in Section 513(d) of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act refers specifically to the medical cause of death and does not “encompass considerations associated with the manner of death (i.e., legal cause).”

Justices Mundy and Dougherty filed concurring and dissenting opinions.


In re V.A.H. (Administrative Law, Gun Rights)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the lower court, which had ordered that the records of petitioner’s involuntary commitment be expunged under her right to reputation in the state’s constitution. The lower court entered the order to allow the petitioner to get a permit to carry a firearm.


UPMC Benefits Mgmt. Services v. United Pharmacy Services (Administrative Law, Workers’ Comp.)

In this workers’ compensation case, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that none of the conditions in WC Regulation 127.255 had been met. Therefore, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Review Hearing Office correctly determined that United Pharmacy Services’s fee review petitions were not premature.


State Workers’ Ins. Fund v. Harburg Med. Sales Co., Inc. (Bureau of Workers’ Comp. Fee Review Hearing Office) (Administrative Law, Workers’ Comp.)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ordered the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to pay the costs of a $2,000 memory foam queen mattress overlay with a cover because the Fund did not seek utilization review before withholding payment.


NEW JERSEY

Holm v. Purdy (Civil Law, Workers’ Comp.)

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that insurance brokers must advise LLC members that an LLC member actively performing services on the LLC’s behalf is eligible for workers’ compensation coverage but that the LLC must elect to purchase such coverage in order to obtain it.


Rivera v. Cherry Hill Towers, LLC (Civil Law, Summary Judgment)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that defendant property manager did not owe plaintiff a duty of care when she was shot at an apartment complex. Because the property manager did not work for the complex at the time of the incident, they were not responsible for ensuring plaintiff’s safety.


3RD CIRCUIT

The Third Circuit did not issue any precedential opinions last week.


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