Opinion Summaries for the

Welcome to Sullivan | Simon’s 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.


McLaughlin v. Nahata (Civil Law, Indemnification)

In a per curiam order, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Superior Court because the Justices are unable to reach consensus. The case questioned whether a hospital may seek contribution and/or indemnification from a dialysis clinic for negligence committed by the dialysis clinic’s employees while working as physicians with staff privileges at the hospital.

Read Justice Brobson’s opinion here.

Read Justice Wecht’s concurring opinion in support of affirmance here.

Commonwealth v. Deible (Criminal Law, Animal Cruelty)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed appellant’s conviction for animal cruelty for allowing her 17-year-old terrier to have matted hair with sticks, metal, and who knows what else tangled in her hair, among other indicia of lack of care. Notably, the Court rejected appellant’s de minimis allegation under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 312(a).

Commonwealth v. Kuhlman (Criminal Law, Suppression)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the denial of appellant’s motion to suppress. Probation officers were tipped off by a doctor who performed a mental health evaluation of appellant that he had access to computers that were not appropriate for a probationer convicted of child pornography. The probation officer conducted an unannounced visit to appellant’s home, searched his computer, and found child pornography. 

Commonwealth v. Faddis (Criminal Law, Probation & Parole)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court provided a solid analysis of the difference between probation and parole. In doing so, the Court ruled that appellant’s probation tail remained intact when the trial court violated her on the parole portion of the sentence, reincarcerated her for the parole violation, but never mentioned the probation tail in the new sentencing order.

Commonwealth v. Dove (Criminal Law, SORNA)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated appellant’s judgment of sentence only insofar as it directed him to comply with the requirements of Subchapter H of Pennsylvania’s Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act. The Court remanded so appallant could litigate his claim that SORNA improperly employs an irrebuttable presumption that sexual offenders pose a high risk of committing additional sexual offenses.

Commonwealth v. Garner (Criminal Law, Limited Access)

The Superior Court dealt with a rare issue: petitions for limited access under Pa.R.Crim.P. 791 and 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 9122.1.The Court held that the statute’s use of “offenses” meant individual charges, and not criminal incidents that may result in multiple charges, as the petitioner argued.

Commonwealth v. Whitmire (Criminal Law, DUI)

A state police trooper asked appellant to come to the barracks to be served with PFA. Appellant obliged. A trooper noticed that appellant was high on marijuana when the two met in the barracks lobby. And appellant told the trooper he drove there. The Pennsylvania Superior Court found that evidence sufficient to prove DUI and rejected appellant’s claim of entrapment.

Commonwealth v. Goodis (Criminal Law, Suppression)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that appellant’s motion to suppress should have been granted. The Court held that police officers executing a search warrant violated appellant’s rights under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure 207 and the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, by entering his home without announcing their purpose.

Read Judge Sullivan’s concurring opinion here.

Halpern v. Ricoh U.S.A., Inc. (Civil Law, Consumer Protection)

Plaintiff bought a digital camera that broke several years later. He filed a putative class action against the manufacturer under the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the lower court’s order sustaining preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer because plaintiff could not allege any statement or representation from Ricoh upon which plaintiff justifiably relied.

Leslie v. Public Health Mgmt. Corp. (Civil Law, Discovery)

The Superior Court dealt with plaintiff’s discovery requests for a foster child’s medical and mental health records and the child’s criminal lawyer’s files, among other information. The Court allowed most of the discovery but limited records regarding delinquency and dependency proceedings, and remanded.

Carlino East Brandywine, L.P. v. Brandywine Village Assoc. (Civil Law, Discovery)

In its second discovery dispute of the week, the Pennsylvania Superior Court dealt with a discovery request for documents protected by the attorney-client and work product privileges. The Court allowed production of the records because defendants pleaded a good faith defense based on the advice of counsel.

PennEnergy Res., LLC v. Winfield Res., LLC (Civil Law, Arbitration)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated an arbitrator’s award in a convoluted matter involving the transfer of interests in gas leaseholds. The central issue was whether a third-party was a party to the litigation because an actual party served as a managing general partner of the third-party. The Court held that the third-party was not involved in the litigation. 

Rivas v. Villegas (Family Law, Relocation)

The Superior Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to consider a request for findings related to the subject child’s status as a special immigrant juvenile

Read Judge Sullivan’s concurring opinion here.

Carrero v. Lopez (Family Law, Relocation)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the lower court abused its discretion under the Child Custody Act by prohibiting a mother from moving from Pennsylvania to Florida with the parties’ 7-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

In re Estate of Bavol (Family Law, Probate)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed who was responsible for paying the inheritance tax on non-probate IRA distributions, the estate or the beneficiaries? The Court held that the inheritance taxes assessed on the transfers of non-charitable, non-probate gifts could not be deducted from the residuary estate and that the payment of such taxes remained the responsibility of the individual beneficiaries.

Goshen Valley III Condo. Assoc. v. Messick (Appellate Procedure, Waiver)

Civil litigators read this short opinion. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court quashed this appeal because the appellant did not file post-sentence motions under Pa. R.Civ.P. 227.1(c), which mandates that every issue to be raised on appeal must first be raised in post-trial motions. 

Paul v. Pennsylvania Pub. Util. Comm’n (Administrative Law, Smart Meter)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in line with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Povacz v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission that Act 129 mandates the system-wide installation of smart meters to all electric customers in the Commonwealth.

Wyoming Borough v. Boyer (Administrative Law, Right to Know)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dealt with a request for certain social media activities of a municipality’s mayor under the Right-to-Know law. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to analyze the issue under Penncrest School District v. Cagle.

Johnson v. Pennsylvania Parole Bd. (Administrative Law, Parole)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that this appeal was moot because the petitioner was seeking relief from his sentence of parole and while the matter was pending he completed his sentence in its entirety.


Hrymov v. Ethicon, Inc. (Civil Law, Evidence)

The New Jersey Supreme Court reviewed this plaintiff’s verdict in a pelvic mesh products liability action. The Court ruled that the defendant-manufacturer should have been allowed to present 510(k) clearance evidence to the jury. That evidence would have established the reason why the manufacturer did not submit the product to clinical trials.


United States v. Stanford (Criminal Law, USSG)

The Third Circuit held that Delaware first- and second-degree robbery are crimes of violence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Court also affirmed the lower court’s order applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule when denying a motion to suppress.

Port Hamilton Refining & Transp., LLLP v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency (Administrative Law, Environmental Law) 

The Third Circuit heard a petition for review from the EPA regarding the agency’s “Reactivation Policy,” which requires new stationary sources of air pollution to fulfill certain permitting requirements. The oil refinery here was not new, but had been shut down for a decade. Under the EPA’s Reactivation Policy, though, the agency considered it new. The Third Circuit held that the policy exceeded the EPA’s authority under the enabling statute. Notably, this case never mentions Chevron deference.

Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency (Administrative Law, Environmental Law)

For the second time in one week, the Third Circuit waded into environmental law when it heard a non-profits petition for review from an EPA determination. Here, the Court upheld the agency’s approval of certain air pollution control technology for use at various Pennsylvania industrial facilities. In a footnote, the Court noted the “elephant in the room: whether, and to what extent, Chevron deference specifically plays a role in this analysis.”

Kairys v. Southern Pines Trucking, Inc. (Civil Law, Employment Law)

The District Court ruled that an employer retaliated against an employee and awarded damages and attorneys’ fees in an equitable matter. Earlier, a jury had returned a contrary “advisory” finding as part of a trial that included legal claims with common facts to the equitable matter. On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court and held that it had the right to make independent factual findings on the equitable matter notwithstanding the advisory findings of the jury on the legal claims.

Myland Inc. v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue (Administrative Law, Tax Law)

The Third Circuit ruled that Mylan, a manufacturer of generic drugs, could deduct as ordinary and necessary business expenses the legal fees it incurred in defending itself against patent infringement lawsuits brought under the Hatch-Waxman Act, which established an expedited process for obtaining FDA approval to sell generic drugs.

Zurn Indus., LLC v. Allstate Ins. Co. (Civil Law, Injunction)

The Third Circuit held that a District Court pre-trial order that compelled an excess insurer to pay defense costs in addition to policy limits under the relevant insurance policy was merely resolving a pre-trial motion and not an injunction. And since it was not an injunction, it was not appealable and the Court had no jurisdiction to review the matter.

Search entire site by keyword...

Search for Summaries by Hashtag...

Past Opinion Summaries


We’re legal ghostwriters with over 25 years of litigation experience. We write briefs, motions, and appeals that are always on time, on budget, and ready to file.