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 opinion.


Ingram v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc. (Civil Law, Collections)

The Third Circuit ruled that the Fair Credit Reporting Act does not have an exception allowing a furnisher discretion to refuse to investigate an indirect dispute it deems frivolous or irrelevant. Here, a consumer challenged a fraudulent account on his credit report. The collections agency that reported the fraudulent account conducted a 13-second investigation that (unsurprisingly) did not reveal fraud. The Third Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of the collections agency.


Commonwealth v. Hamilton (Criminal Law, PCRA)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that Defendant’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the Commonwealth’s motion for joinder. The Court ruled that the impermissible joinder resulted in the admission of irrelevant evidence. Defendant was charged with shooting two victims with a gun he stole days earlier. The trial court joined the stolen gun case with the shootings case. 

Commonwealth v. Felix (Criminal Law, PCRA)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the denial of PCRA relief. Defendant pled guilty to a string of crimes, including first degree murder, for which he received an aggregate sentence of life without parole. He claimed that his attorney’s ineffectiveness caused him to enter an involuntary guilty plea to first-degree murder because counsel failed to inform him of the nature of the charges, the factual basis of the plea, and the nature of the death penalty proceedings. The Court disagreed with each argument.

Shell v. Shell (Family Law, Divorce)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court dealt with a novel issue at the intersection of family law and estate law. Wife filed a complaint in divorce and husband died while that action was pending. Wife then praeciped to withdraw the divorce complaint and discontinue the divorce action. The administrator to husband’s estate responded by petitioning to set aside Wife’s praecipe. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s order discontinuing the divorce action.

School Express, Inc. v. Upper Adams Sch. Dist. (Administrative Law, COVID-19)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed an award of judgment on the pleadings in favor of a school district that was sued by a company it contracted with to transport students. The transportation company claimed it was owed money during the pandemic when schools were fully remote, even though that meant there were no students to transport. The Commonwealth Court disagreed.

Borough of State College v. Borough of State College Police Assoc. (Administrative Law, Employment Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed an order that denied the Borough’s petition to vacate a grievance arbitration award it had filed against the Borough of State College Police Association. The Court held that the arbitrator (1) did not act beyond her jurisdiction, (2) did not infringe upon Borough’s managerial prerogative, (3) did not exceed its authority, and (4) did not issue an order repugnant to well-defined, dominant public policy.

Downingtown Area Sch. Dist. v. Chester County Bd of Assessment Appeals (Administrative Law, Tax Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed an order of the Court of Common Pleas that granted a tax appeal filed by a school district. The Court ruled that the monetary threshold the District used to trigger tax appeals may have been neutral, but the implementation created a systematic and disparate treatment of taxpayers.

Fruchter v. Borough of Malvern (Administrative Law, Right to Know Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed an order of the Office of Open Records that some records related to the discipline and retirement of a police officer were exempt from disclosure under the Right to Know Law. The Court ruled that the Notice of Suspension and Loudermill letter were exempt from disclosure because the documents contained information regarding the officer’s discipline and/or written criticisms.

Your Town Builders, Inc. v. Manheim Twp. (Administrative Law, Municipal Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed in part and reversed in part a series of orders that (1) entered judgment against a township and its municipal authority, jointly and severally in an amount to be determined  and enjoining them from charging their current water tapping fee; (2) ordered a supplemental judgment against the township and its municipal authority; and (3) denied the township’s and its municipal authority’s post-trial motions.

Severino v. J.P. Holdings, LLC (Administrative Law, Tax Sale)

Appellant challenged the trial court’s order denying and dismissing her Petition to Set Aside Private Tax Sale Nunc Pro Tunc. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed, rejecting her claims that (1) the County Tax Claim Bureau was required to give her notice of the proposed private tax sale; (2) she was prejudiced because she cannot read or speak English, and all of the relevant writings in this case were only in English; and (3) the trial court should have granted the Petition.

School District of Philadelphia v. Bd. of Revisions of Taxes (Administrative Law, Tax Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed an order of the Court of Common Pleas that quashed the School District’s appeal of 138 commercial property tax assessments. The School District unsuccessfully argued that the trial court erred in holding that the School District’s decision to appeal only commercial property assessments violated the Uniformity Clause in the Pennsylvania Constitution.


The New Jersey courts did not issue any precedential opinions this week.

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