Below are 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 entire opinion.
Commonwealth v. Arias (Criminal Law, Suppression)
The case’s facts occurred pre-Alexander, and defendant “never raised the issue of exigent circumstances requirement or cited to the Alexander decision before the trial court or in his Rule 1925(b) statement.” As a result, the Pennsylvania Superior Court applied Gary and affirmed the denial of defendant’s suppression motion.
Ungarean v. CNA and Valley Forge Ins. Co. (Insurance Law, COVID-19)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment declaring plaintiff was entitled to business interruption insurance coverage because COVID-19 and the related governmental orders had caused him to suffer a direct physical loss of his dental practice, which was within the ambit of coverage provided by defendant’s policy.
Estate of Quigley v. Pottstown Hospital, LLC (Civil Procedure, Venue)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by granting defendants’ preliminary objections and transferring the action to Montgomery County. The evidence demonstrated that Tower Health, a parent corporation named defendant, regularly conducts business in Philadelphia County, establishing venue in plaintiff’s chosen forum, Philadelphia.
MacMiles v. Erie Ins. Exch. (Insurance Law, COVID-19)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court joined a majority of jurisdictions in ruling that a traditional commercial insurance policy does not protect the insured against financial losses resulting from business shutdowns because of a governor’s COVID-19 orders.
Read Judge Panella’s concurring opinion here.
Omatick v. Cecil Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd. (Administrative Law, Zoning)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed an order of the Court of Common Pleas because the lower court failed to act as an appellate court when reviewing a zoning board’s decision on a complete record.
Columbia Co. Comm’rs v. Rospendowski (Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd.) (Civil Law, Workers’ Compensation)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that an employer cannot offset an overpayment of workers’ compensation benefits paid for one work-related injury through a credit against an award of benefits for a subsequent work-related injury.
In re C.J. (Criminal Law, Megan’s Law)
Is it appropriate to consider acquitted conduct to determine Megan’s Law tier designation? The New Jersey Appellate Division answered in the affirmative because of the non-punitive, civil nature of a Megan’s Law proceeding, the statute’s public safety purpose, and the less demanding standard utilized to make a tier designation.
In re Officer DiGuglielmo (Administrative Law, Employment Law)
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that special disciplinary arbitration is not limited to municipal officers and is available to public university police. Furthermore, under N.J.S.A. 40A:14-210, an officer suspended with pay before termination is eligible to engage in special disciplinary arbitration.
United States v. Banks (Criminal Law, Sentencing)
The Third Circuit ruled that the loss enhancement in the Sentencing Guideline’s application notes impermissibly expands the word “loss” to include both intended and actual loss. Therefore, the District Court erred when it applied the loss enhancement because defendant’s crimes caused no actual loss.
United States v. Womack (Criminal Law, Expert Witness, Sentencing)
The Third Circuit affirmed numerous appellants’ convictions for drug crimes. Defendants claimed that a DEA agent violated F.R.E. 704 by intruding on the jury’s function, that jury instructions and interrogatories regarding drug quantities were flawed, that evidence regarding gun violence was inadmissible, and several sentencing errors.
United States v. Dyer (Criminal Law, Conditional Plea)
Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea, then appealed the denial of his suppression motion. The Third Circuit held that Defendant could not prevail and withdraw his plea if the error in admitting the challenged evidence was harmless.
United States v. Alexander (Criminal Law, Suppression)
The Third Circuit declined to address the legality of “hit-and-holds”–where police enter and secure premises before getting a warrant. The Court ruled that the government proved that the evidence would have inevitably been discovered.
Clark v. Governor of New Jersey (Administrative Law, COVID-19)
The Third Circuit ruled that two religious congregations’ challenges to COVID-related restrictions were moot. The restrictions were rescinded more than two years ago, “and it is absolutely clear their return could not reasonably be expected to recur.”
Clark v. Coup (Prisoner Litigation, Qualified Immunity)
The Third Circuit reversed a grant of qualified immunity and reinstated Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff, a prisoner diagnosed with manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia, brought an as-applied claim alleging his months-long placement in solitary confinement violated his constitutional rights. The Court found that Plaintiff’s allegations triggered Eighth Amendment protection.
United States ex. rel. Ascolese v. Shoemaker (Civil Law, Qui Tam)
The Third Circuit dealt with 2010 amendments to the False Claims Act. The Court altered its analysis regarding retaliation claims based on the amendment’s new expanded anti-retaliation standard that protects lawful acts in furtherance of either an action under the FCA or other efforts to stop violations of the Act.
Alexander-Mendoza v. Att’y Gen. (Immigration Law, Administrative Appeal)
The Third Circuit affirmed an order of the Bureau of Immigration Appeals that enforced the petitioner’s waiver of his right to an administrative appeal. The pro se petitioner orally waived his right to appeal but filed a notice of appeal eleven days later. The Court held that the waiver was valid.