Opinion Summaries for the

Below are 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. Lawrence (DUI, Sentencing)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed defendant’s convictions for  Driving While Operating Privilege is Suspended. Defendant unsuccessfully argued that 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543(b)(1)(iii) is unconstitutionally vague because it only provides a specific term for the minimum sentence and does not specify a maximum period of incarceration.

Francis v. LCP North Third, LLC (Civil Law, Duty of Good Faith)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that defendant violated its duty of good faith by failing to complete renovations on a property and, in doing so, defeated plaintiff’s ability to exercise his purchase option. The Court affirmed the award of attorneys’ fees because the parties contracted for a fee-shifting agreement.

Souderton Charter Sch. Collaborative v. Souderton Area Sch. Dist. (Administrative Law, Education Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court designated its earlier memorandum opinion as a precedential opinion. The Court affirmed a grant of summary judgment directing a school district to remove two conditions it unilaterally imposed on a charter school during the renewal process.

Fegley v. Firestone Tire & Rubber (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Bd.) & Appel v. GWC Warranty Corp. (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Bd.) (Administrative Law, Workers’ Compensation) 

In these companion cases, an en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court ruled that the Workers’ Compensation Act required an employer to reimburse its employee for his medical marijuana and that insurers or employers may be required to pay for medical marijuana.

Landlord Service Bureau, Inc. v. The City of Pittsburgh (Administrative Law, Home Rule Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that, in light of the express limitations in Section 2962(f) of the Home Rule Law, the City was without authority to enact the Rental Ordinance because the Ordinance imposed numerous affirmative duties upon rental unit owners.

Garcia v. Foot Locker Retail, Inc. & Garcia v. American Eagle Oufitters, Inc. (Preliminary Objections, Statutory Construction)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the sales tax collection on nontaxable items under the circumstances here did not occur in the conduct of any trade or commerce within the meaning of the UTPCPL. Therefore, the alleged conduct was not actionable under the UTPCPL.

Borough of West Chester v. Pa. State Sys. of Higher Educ. (Administrative Law, Taxes) 

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that West Chester Borough’s Stormwater Charge was not a service fee but a tax, which the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and West Chester University are immune from paying.

In re Estate of Ruhlman (Statutory interpretation, Probate)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that an interested party, pursuant to section 908 of the Probate Code, may present a later-discovered will or codicil directly to the orphans’ court for probate as an appeal to set aside a prior will as long as the petition is filed within a year of the original probate


State v. Macchia (Jury Verdict Unanimity)

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that defendant’s jury was not required to unanimously agree on why it rejected his claim of self-defense. As a result, the unanimous verdict rejecting self-defense was sufficient to sustain defendant’s conviction for reckless manslaughter.

Davis v. Disability Rights NJ (Employment Law, Discovery)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the trial court did not err in allowing defendants’ limited discovery of plaintiff’s private social media posts and cell phone bills to defend against her claims that her termination violated the Law Against Discrimination, causing her emotional distress.

Malanga v. Twp. of W. Orange (Administrative Law, Municipal Law)

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that West Orange’s library did not need redevelopment under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. Though the building required improvement, the Court held that the Township did not prove that the building was detrimental to the community’s welfare.

Hansen v. Rite Aid Corp. (Attorney’s Fees)

In this appeal about the propriety of legal fees, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order that reduced the lodestar, the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate, because of plaintiff’s limited success and other factors.

Y.H. v. T.C. (Civil Law, Expungement, Negligence)

Worlds collided in the New Jersey Appellate Division. Plaintiff was injured by an Uber driver and sued the driver and Uber. The driver had an aggravated assault conviction expunged after Uber hired him but before the injury. The Court held that the expunged conviction could not be used against the driver but could be used against Uber


United States v. Rivera (Plea Agreements)

The Third Circuit held that the District Court erred in denying defendant’s motion to withdraw guilty plea because he did not provide a “fair and just” reason for withdrawal. The Court also ruled that, though he signed a plea agreement, defendant did not waive the right to appeal his conviction.

Adelphia Gateway, LLC v. Pa. Envt’l. Hearing Bd. (Administrative Law, Issue Preclusion)

The Third Circuit agreed with the District Court that issue preclusion doomed plaintiff’s claim because the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court had already addressed the issue and ruled against plaintiff. Plaintiff was trying to avoid citizens’ challenges before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board to its plan to build a natural gas compressor station.

Higgins v. Bayada Home Health Care Inc. (Civil Law, Employment Law)

The Third Circuit ruled that paid time off is not part of an employee’s salary under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Thus, an employer did not violate the FLSA by making deductions from employees’ accumulated paid time off when the employees failed to meet weekly productivity goals. 

Merritts v. Richards (Administrative Law, Condemnation)

In state proceedings, PennDOT received an easement on plaintiff’s land. Plaintiff then sought injunctive relief in federal court. The Third Circuit ruled that some claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment but allowed others to proceed because Burford abstention did not apply. 

Freeman v. Superintendent Fayette SCI (Criminal Law, Confrontation)

The Third Circuit agreed with a habeas petitioner and the District Court that a codefendant’s statement was inadequately redacted under Bruton. But, unlike the District Court, the Third Circuit held that the error was harmless. The redacted statement – “the first guy” and “the second guy” – was insufficient

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