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.
Commonwealth v. Bathurst (Criminal Law, DUI)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that defendant was subject to a mere encounter when officers pulled up behind his lawfully-parked car, approached it, and asked him a few questions. The Court also ruled that the evidence was sufficient to prove operation because the car was running.
Shellenberger v. Kreider Farms (Civil Law, Summary Judgment)
In this asbestos-mesothelioma case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed an order granting summary judgment in an employer’s favor. The Court held that the employer had a heightened duty to its employee – an invitee – to protect him from known dangers and those which might be discovered with reasonable care.
Chiles v. Miller (Civil Law, Wiretap Act)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that an assistant district attorney violated the Wiretap Act when he gave recordings of prison calls to civil attorneys. It was lawful for the ADA to get the calls while investigating a crime, but it was unlawful to give them to attorneys for civil purposes.
V.L.-P. V. S.R.D. (Family Law, Genetic Testing)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed an order of the Court of Common Pleas and held that a mother must subject her child to a genetic paternity test so that the potential father could have an opportunity to prove his claim of fraud.
City of Harrisburg v. Prince (Administrative Law, Right-to-Know Law)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dealt with this Right-to-Know Law matter on remand from the Supreme Court. Here, the Court affirmed the order that disclosed limited information about donors to a city’s defense fund because the lower court properly balanced privacy interests against public interests.
Puricelli v. Pa. Dep’t of Transp. (Office of Chief Counsel) (Administrative Law, Medical Records)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a requester was not entitled to another driver’s medical information retained by PennDOT, even though the other driver consented to the release and a Court of Common Pleas judge ordered the records released.
Commonwealth v. Trainer (Administrative Law, Civil Forfeiture)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that Pa.R.Crim.P. 588 does not permit a trial court to order personal property seized and sold at fair market value, with the proceeds returnable to the original owner, where the Commonwealth presents no evidence.
Freedman v. Freedman (Family Law)
The New Jersey Appellate Division dealt with a fight between divorced parents over the cremated remains and personal belongings of their 20-year-old son. The case offers guidance on how the remains of a child should be handled when parents cannot agree.
United States v. Heinrich (Criminal Law, Child Pornography)
The Third Circuit rejected defendant’s challenge to child pornography convictions. He claimed that he only took pictures of girls’ genitals to show beauty and innocence, not “sexually explicit conduct.” The Court held that his claim was legally irrelevant, and he could not call an expert to support his claim.
Jaludi v. Citigroup & Co. (Civil Law, Jurisdiction)
The Third Circuit ruled that neither the Sarbanes-Oxley’s statute of limitations nor its requirement for a litigant to exhaust his administrative remedies is jurisdictional. Nonetheless, the Court affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s whistleblower claim.
O’Brien v. Middle East Forum (Civil Law, Employment Law)
In this workplace sexual harassment case, the Third Circuit faulted the lower court for failing to instruct the jury that if it found the plaintiff’s supervisor to be a proxy or alter ego of the employer, the Faragher/Ellerth defense was unavailable.
Wilson v. USI Ins. Serv. LLC (Civil Law, COVID-19)
The Third Circuit predicted that the Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey would rule that businesses did not suffer a physical loss of property when they shut down due to their governors’ orders during the pandemic. As such, the businesses’ insurance policies need not cover any losses suffered.