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

In re Trust Under Deed of Garrison (Trusts & Estates)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Superior Court erred by not enforcing modifications to trusts. The settlor and all beneficiaries agreed to the changes to allow for the replacement of trustees by a majority of beneficiaries after the settlor’s death.


Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co. (Civil Law, Fraud)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that aiding and abetting fraud is a cognizable claim under Pennsylvania law, and the required state of mind is actual knowledge of the fraud.


In re Private Criminal Complaint of Luay AJAJ (Criminal Law, Private Criminal Complaint)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a reviewing court may only disturb a DA’s decision to deny a private criminal complaint if the disapproval decision amounted to bad faith, occurred due to fraud, or was unconstitutional. Here, the Court found that the DA’s basis of “evidentiary issues” was satisfactory. 

Read Justice Dougherty’s concurring opinion here.

Read Justice Wecht’s concurring and dissenting opinion here.


In re Nomination Paper of Avery (Administrative Law, Election Law)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that two candidates could not run for office as third-party candidates after they originally ran as Republicans. The opinion offers a great guide on interpreting fragmented rulings with multiple opinions by the Supreme Court. 

Read Justice Wecht’s concurring opinion here.

Read Justice Mundy’s concurring opinion here.


In re Adoption of A.M.W. (Family Law, Adoption)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the lower court erred in ruling that a child’s former stepfather did not have standing to intervene in the current stepfather’s petition to adopt. Furthermore, the lower court erred in failing to appoint counsel for the child.

Read Judge Dubow’s concurring opinion here.

Read Judge Kunselman’s dissenting opinion here.


In re Amended and Restated Deed of Trust of Holdship (Family Law, Trusts & Estates)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s order that granted preliminary objections in this dispute between a bank trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust. The Court ruled that the beneficiaries’ petition did not set forth factual allegations upon which early disbursement of the trust could be granted.


Smith v. O’Brien (Civil Law, Spousal Privilege)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court quashed this appeal, ruling that, though “the spousal-communication privilege survives a marriage, the basis for entertaining an immediate appeal from an order compelling disclosure of spousal communications does not.” Thus, it ruled this appeal was interlocutory.


Energy Transfer v. Pa. Public Util. Comm’n (Administrative Law, Right to Know Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a newspaper had to present its claim to the Public Utility Commission that the Commission failed to comply with the Public Utility Confidential Security Information Disclosure Protection Act. Since the newspaper did not, the records remained exempt from the RTKL.


NEW JERSEY

State v. Coviello (DWI, Time Credit)

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that when a defendant’s sentence for driving while intoxicated requires the installation of an ignition interlock device, the sentencing court, not the Motor Vehicle Commission, has jurisdiction to rule on the defendant’s application for credit toward that portion of the sentence.


W.S v. Hildreth (Statutory Interpretation, Statute of Limitations)

The ​​New Jersey Supreme Court held that child sexual abuse survivors who file a Child Sexual Abuse Act complaint against a public entity after December 1, 2019 — even if their cause of action accrued much earlier — need not file a Tort Claims Act notice of claim before filing suit.


Scaduto v. N.J. Dept. of Env. Prot. (Civil Law, Condemnation)

The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed an order of the lower court in several consolidated reverse condemnation matters involving the construction of dunes in Point Pleasant Beach. The Court ruled that the entire controversy doctrine barred the separate actions by individual landowners.


Lipsky v. MHA, LLC (Civil Law, Discovery)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the trial court abused its discretion when it compelled a non-party state agency to turn over its employees’ State-issued and personal cell phones to a party’s expert for forensic examination, even when the agency had already produced the relevant records from the devices.


3RD CIRCUIT

Mauthe v. Millennium Health LLC (Civil Law, SPAM)

Plaintiff received a fax for a free educational seminar and sought monetary relief under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The District Court correctly determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to recovery because no reasonable recipient could construe the fax as an unsolicited advertisement for goods, services, or property.


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