Below are summaries of the precedential appellate decisions from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Third Circuit for the week of July 25th. Click on a case name, and you will be redirected to the court’s entire opinion.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court dealt with a rare procedural issue in a criminal case. The defendant was convicted of summary offenses. She appealed to the Court of Common Pleas but died before her trial de novo. The question arose: Should the matter be abated, or should the judgment from the magisterial district court be enforced because the defendant failed to appear at the de novo trial? The Superior Court held that “if missing a bus constitutes good cause to excuse an appearance, . . . so does dying.” The Court ordered the charges abated.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ordered that a prior opinion be published. The opinion dealt with an employer’s decision to refuse to pay for some of a claimant’s prescription medications that had been previously found to be reasonable and necessary. The Court noted that if an employer believes that a claimant’s medical expenses are not causally related to the claimant’s work injuries, the employer may unilaterally stop paying for those medical expenses. Here, the employer believed that some medications were not causally related to the claimant’s work injury. The Court ruled in favor of the employer because the claimant offered no evidence to support her argument regarding causation.
See the order designating the matter published here.
#AdministrativeLaw, #WorkersComp, #Causation
The New Jersey Appellate Division doled out a delectable slice of administrative law and appellate procedure in a case based on the Crowe factors. The Crowe factors set forth the test a court must utilize when determining whether emergent relief — such as a preliminary injunction or a stay — should be granted. Here, NJ Transit issued a request for proposals to award a contract to a bus carrier to operate certain bus lines. Two companies submitted bids. They were judged numerically, and one company came out on top. But members of that company had just settled a qui tam action with the State for millions of dollars. The agreement included the ordinary language that the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing. The allegations were that the company operators took the State for the proverbial “ride” while not providing citizens the actual rides the company contracted to provide. NJ Transit awarded the contract to the company with a lower score based partly on the other company’s “moral integrity.” The losing company moved for reconsideration and lost. It then appealed and filed an emergent motion to stay the award. The Court held that the controlling factor was the losing company’s inability to demonstrate any reasonable probability of success on the merits of the appeal. As such, the Court denied the motion for a temporary stay.
The Third Circuit waded into a Circuit split over personal jurisdiction and the Fair Labor Standards Act, siding with the Sixth and Eighth Circuits. The Court ruled that where the basis of personal jurisdiction in a collective action under the Act in a federal court is specific personal jurisdiction established by serving process according to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A), every plaintiff who seeks to opt into the suit must demonstrate their claim arises out of the defendant’s minimum contacts with the forum state. Here, the plaintiff was an employee of FedEx and alleged that the company misclassified her and other FedEx security specialists as exempt from the Act’s overtime rule and underpaid them. Two out-of-state former FedEx employees submitted notices of consent, seeking to join the plaintiff’s collective action. The Court ruled that the out-of-state opt-in plaintiffs did not demonstrate their claims arose out of or related to FedEx’s minimum contacts with Pennsylvania as is required by the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, they failed to establish personal jurisdiction and could not join the suit.
#CivilLaw, #FLSA, #Jurisdiction, #PersonalJurisdiction
The Third Circuit reviewed an issue of first impression regarding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), 8 U.S.C. § 1187. The VWP allows travel without a visa for short-term visitors from 38 countries that have entered into a “rigorous security partnership” with the United States. The petitioner was not from one of those countries but lied in an attempt to gain entry to the U.S. Under the VWP, visitors must waive their right to contest the government’s admissibility determinations and removal actions, except that the alien may challenge removal actions based on asylum. Here, the petitioner applied for a marriage-based adjustment of status (AOS) and withdrew his asylum application. The Third Circuit ruled that such an alien, despite his ineligibility for the VWP, is subject to the terms of the VWP. Accordingly, the petitioner never had a right to contest his removability by seeking an AOS and has been limited to asylum-only proceedings.
The Third Circuit partially vacated the District Court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant unions in a civil RICO suit initiated by a company that operates nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The “suit is the culmination of a history of conflict and animosity that has unfortunately characterized the relationship between Care One and the Unions.” Plaintiffs’ claims broadly fall into two categories. First, Plaintiff alleged several predicate offenses based on wire and mail fraud claiming that the unions failed to adequately fact-check certain advertisements that denigrated Plaintiff. The District Court and Third Circuit agreed that the unions had properly investigated their claims and that summary judgment was warranted. But the Third Circuit reversed the District Court regarding the second class of claims: that the unions engaged in extortion through sabotage and fear of economic loss. The Third Circuit thoroughly analyzed the history of the relevant portions of RICO before allowing the latter claims to proceed.
The Third Circuit reviewed an action wherein the plaintiff filed suit against the Department of Energy — his former employer — because the agency disclosed records of its internal investigation of the plaintiff’s misconduct to state prosecutors. The issue involved subject matter jurisdiction and the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1101, which governs the rights and obligations of most federal employees. The Act provides exclusive administrative and judicial review procedures for disputes falling in its ambit. The Court found that only some of the plaintiff’s allegations challenged an employment matter covered by the statute. The Court held that those allegations were properly dismissed by the court below. But the lower court erred in dismissing other claims that did not fall within the Act’s ambit.
#CivilLaw, #Jurisdiction, #SubjectMatterJurisdiction
The Third Circuit affirmed an order of the District Court that denied an employer’s motion to compel arbitration after it terminated an employee. Plaintiff is a doctor who entered into employment with three highly-related companies: two sister companies and their parent company. When Plaintiff was hired, she signed a stack of paperwork. Within that stack was an arbitration agreement with one of the sister companies but neither of the other entities. The parent company claimed that it could enforce the agreement for two reasons: agency principles and equitable estoppel. The Third Circuit held that the parent company was not an agent of the other entity and that equitable estoppel did not apply to the parties at issue.
#CivilLaw, #Arbitration, #Agency, #Estoppel