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.


Commonwealth v. Jeter (Postsentence motion, Pa.R.E. 606(b))

After he was convicted of murder, defendant argued on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing to investigate his claims that the jurors received extraneous information or were subjected to an outside influence. The Pennsylvania Superior Court applied Pratt v. St. Christopher’s Hosp., 824 A.2d 299 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2003), and agreed with defendant.

Commonwealth v. Reeves (PCRA, Newly-Discovered Evidence)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the dismissal of defendant’s PCRA petition and held that newspaper articles referencing misconduct by detectives in matters unrelated to defendant’s do not constitute newly-discovered facts. 

Turnpaugh Chiropractic Health and Wellness Center, P.C. v. Erie Ins. Exch. (Insurance Law, First Party Benefits)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Erie was entitled to a new trial because the trial court abused its discretion in allowing Provider to offer a doctor’s expert testimony on a repricing claim over Erie’s objection that it had not been provided any notice in the pretrial discovery that the doctor would offer such an opinion.

Ehmer v. Maxim Crane Works, L.P. (Personal Injury, Venue)

In this personal injury suit, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the trial court abused its discretion in transferring the venue from Philadelphia County to Columbia County based on forum non conveniens. 

King v. Driscoll (Settlement Agreements, Attorney’s Right to Bind Client)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court remanded this dispute over the sale of shares of a restaurant the parties co-owned. The Court directed the trial court to determine whether Driscoll’s attorney had the express authority to bind his client to the terms of an agreement without first getting Driscoll’s final approval.

In re J.B. (Family Law, Permanency Goals)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying a petition for a permanency goal change for four children. After 37 months, the parents had yet to satisfy their established goals toward reunification.

In re Estate of Cassidy (Estate Law, Ambiguous Will)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court remanded this dispute over a will, ruling that “while the Orphans’ Court properly admitted parol evidence to aid in its interpretation of Decedent’s will, it improperly disregarded that evidence and, instead, engaged in the impermissible redrafting of the Decedent’s will.”

White v. Malecki (Family Law, Child Custody)

Mother appealed the trial court’s decision awarding Father primary physical custody of their 6-year-old son, pursuant to the Child Custody Act. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s custody award but vacated the provision regarding the transportation costs and remand with instruction.

Pangallo v. Pa. Prevailing Wage Appeals Bd (Administrative Law, Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the Department of Labor and Industry Secretary’s order that determined Pangallo unintentionally violated the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act by failing to pay applicable prevailing wages to workers.

Tactical Public Safety, LLC v. Pa. Dep’t Gen. Servs. (Administrative Law, Bid Evaluation)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the Pennsylvania Department of General Services’ final decision that denied TPS’s bid protest because the protest was untimely and lacked merit.


State v. Berry (Kingpin Charges, Jury Charge)

In this opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court focused primarily on the trial judge’s response to a question posed by the jury during deliberations. The Court held that judges are encouraged, when practical, to respond “yes” or “no” to unambiguous and specific questions posed by juries rather than solely re-read sections of the final jury charge.

Pantano v. NY Shipping Ass’n (Employment Law, Vicarious Liability)

This personal injury case in the New Jersey Supreme Court involved the application of the multi-factor test announced in Galvao v. G.R. Robert Construction Co., 179 N.J. 462 (2004), for evaluating whether a worker who negligently caused a plaintiff’s jobsite injury was a so-called “borrowed employee” of the plaintiff’s own employer.

State v. Johnson (Suppression, Vehicle Registration Search Exception)

This case in the New Jersey Appellate Division presented a novel question concerning the vehicle registration search exception to the warrant requirement, authorizing police to enter a lawfully stopped vehicle to conduct a pinpointed search for a paper registration certificate if the motorist is unable or unwilling to produce that document after having been provided a meaningful opportunity to comply with the police request for it.

State v. Arteaga (Motion to Compel Facial Recognition Technology, Discovery)

The New Jersey Appellate Division vacated the trial court’s order that denied defendant’s motion to compel the State to provide discovery related to the facial recognition technology (FRT) used to develop a picture of him, which was then used to identify and charge him. The Court concluded that the evidence was “directly tied to the defense’s ability to test the reliability of the FRT. As such, it was vital to impeach the witnesses’ identification, challenge the State’s investigation, create reasonable doubt, and demonstrate third-party guilt.”

Guzman v. M. Teixeira Internat’l Inc. (Employment Law, NJ Law Against Discrimination)

The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s case, ruling that “even assuming defendants believed plaintiff had COVID-19, the facts plaintiff alleged in his pleadings are not sufficient to establish a prima facie case under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination that he was terminated because his employer perceived he had a disability.”

Beneduci v. Curtin (Employment Law, NJ Law Against Discrimination)

This appeal presented a question of first impression regarding whether a claim can be made under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), where (1) an employer merges with another employer, (2) the employee does not apply for a position with the new employer, but (3) the employee contends that while all other employees were offered employment with the new employer, the employer did not extend the same offer, for reasons proscribed by the LAD.


United States v. Garcia-Vasquez (Sentencing Enhancements, Statutory Interpretation)

The Third Circuit interpreted the Sentencing Guidelines broadly and held that the illegal-reentry Sentencing Guideline’s enhancement to anyone with a prior conviction for a “drug trafficking offense” captures a wide swath of “offenses,” including completed and inchoate offenses, and even conspiracies without overt acts.

Range v. Att’y Gen. (2nd Amendment, 922(g))

Second Amendment honks should read this opinion in which the Third Circuit takes a deep dive (107 pages) into the Second Amendment. Plaintiff sued, seeking a declaration that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) violates the Second Amendment as applied to him. The Third Circuit held that despite his false statement conviction, plaintiff remains among “the people” protected by the Second Amendment. And the Court reversed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment “because the Government did not carry its burden of showing that our Nation’s history and tradition of firearm regulation support disarming” plaintiff.

Minor v. De. River and Bay Authority (Qualified Immunity, First Amendment)

In a suit based on alleged First Amendment violations, the Third Circuit remanded this interlocutory appeal for the District Court to make a “careful examination of the record . . . to establish . . . a detailed factual description of the actions of each individual defendant.” Only then could there be a determination of whether qualified immunity was appropriate.

Fenico v. City of Philadelphia (First Amendment, 12(b)(6))

In 2019, the City of Philadelphia made national news by taking disciplinary action against 12 police officers who used Facebook to denigrate minorities and glorify the use of violence. The District Cout dismissed the officers’ First Amendment suit for failure to state a claim. The Third Circuit reversed and held that the allegations in the amended complaint entitled the officers an attempt to develop the claim in discovery.

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