Opinion Summaries for the

Below are summaries of the precedential appellate decisions from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Third Circuit for the week of May 30. Click on a case name to read the court’s entire opinion.


Commonwealth v. Wright

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the defendant’s sentence for simple assault because the lower court erred in awarding restitution to a recovery and reimbursement subrogation vendor. The Court held that the vendor was not an insurance company and did not pay any claim. Therefore, the vendor was not entitled to restitution under 18 Pa.C.S. § 1106.

#CriminalLaw, #Sentencing, #Restitution, #StatutoryInterpretation

Commonwealth v. Taylor

The lower court convicted the defendant of charges related to the sexual assault of a four-year-old. He raised numerous issues on appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which denied each argument. First, the Court held that the defendant was not entitled to relief on a claim that the lower court violated the coordinate jurisdiction rule because the defendant raised the claim for the first time in post-sentence motions and the issue regarded a pre-trial motion in limine. Second, the Court held that the trial court did not err in denying a defense motion for a continuance before trial. Third, the Court ruled that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in finding the minor victim competent to testify. In his fourth issue, he raised various claims about evidentiary rulings, but the Superior Court held that he failed to develop those claims with an adequate argument, and they were thus waived. Lastly, the Court held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in not giving a missing evidence and/or missing witness jury instruction.

#CriminalLaw, #Evidence

Frezghi v. Tesfamariam

In this quiet title case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s order granting the plaintiff a new trial and issued an ominous warning that the court “must not allow the unauthorized practice of law.” At trial, the plaintiff was “represented” by his nephew, a non-lawyer. After losing the case, the plaintiff hired an attorney who successfully moved for a new trial. The Superior Court reversed because the trial court’s decision was at odds with controlling precedent. But the Court remanded for the plaintiff to refile claims that were not litigated.

#CivilLaw, #Jurisdiction

White v. Pa. Parole Bd.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the Pennsylvania Parole Board (Board) order, determining that the Board relied upon admissible evidence when recommitting White as a convicted parole violator (CPV) and that White’s recalculated maximum parole date included all applicable credits. White contended that the Board lacked sufficient evidence to revoke his parole and recommit him as a CPV because the Board’s hearing examiner relied on inadmissible hearsay. Additionally, White contended that the Board improperly calculated his custody return date and time credit. The Court disagreed with both claims.

#AdministrativeLaw, #Parole, #TimeCredit


State v. Thompson

The New Jersey Supreme Court dealt with N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6(c), which states that the time for prosecuting an offense under a statute of limitations does not start to run until the State has both the physical evidence and the DNA evidence necessary to establish the identification of the actor through comparison to the physical evidence. The Court held that the law shows that the Legislature intended the statute of limitations to begin to run once the State had both the physical evidence from the crime and the suspect’s DNA. As such, the Court vacated the defendant’s conviction because the State violated the statute of limitations.

#CriminalLaw, #DNA, #StatuteOfLimitations

Mack-Cali Realty Corp. v. State of New Jersey

In our summary of the Appellate Division’s opinion, we predicted it: The New Jersey Supreme Court would decide this dormant Commerce Clause case. In a per curiam order, the High Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision that permitted the plaintiffs to pursue their challenge to a Jersey City ordinance that imposed a payroll tax exempting employees who resided in the city from paying that tax. The Court agreed with the Appellate Division that numerous other challenges to the ordinance were dismissed correctly at summary judgment.

#CivilLaw, #CommerceClause, #DormantCommerceClause

Savage v. Neptune Twp.

The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s order enforcing a non-disparagement provision in a settlement agreement. The Court ruled that although the terms of the non-disparagement provision were enforceable and the lower court correctly adjudicated this matter by motion, the court erred in finding that the plaintiff violated the provision’s terms.

#CivilLaw, #SettlementAgreement

Morris v. Rutgers-Newark Univ.

The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed parts of the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because the court mistakenly dismissed some of the plaintiffs’ retaliation claims. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the trial court’s interpretation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d) was impermissibly narrow.

#CivilLaw, #SummaryJudgment, #EducationLaw, #LAD

Ripp v. Hudson Cty.

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the judge of workers’ compensation (JWC) erred “in her expansive application of N.J.S.A. 34:15-28.2,” and, additionally, she abused her discretion in “imposing a manifestly excessive assessment.” The JWC impermissibly found that delays in the litigation served as an adequate basis for the penalty. In addition, the judge awarded the maximum penalty, though the delay attributable to the County was only sixteen days, and she recognized certain extenuating circumstances that reasonably delayed payment. Additionally, the judge did not find any bad faith on the County’s part.

#EmploymentLaw, #WorkersComp

Wolosky v. Fredon Twp.

The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed the Tax Court’s order, which awarded a municipality more than $45,000 in counsel fees in conjunction with a dispute of tax assessments. The Appellate Division decided the matter on procedural grounds. The defendants waited to file their motion for sanctions until after the appellate process ended, 679 days after the entry of the final judgment. The Appellate Division ruled that Rule 1:4-8(b)(2) compelled the lower court to reject the request for sanctions.

#AdministrativeLaw, #TaxLaw, #AttorneyFees

Booth v. Bd. of Trs., Publ. Emp.s’ Ret. Sys.

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that “a school employee cannot obtain disability retirement benefits where disciplinary charges have not been shown to ‘relate’ to a disability under N.J.A.C. 17:1-6.4.” The plaintiff was a school bus driver until she crashed her bus while intoxicated with kids on it. She then entered into a confidential separation agreement which ended her employment with the local board of education. The terms of that separation agreement included a waiver of “any and all rights to seek future employment with the” board of education. The plaintiff then applied for accidental disability retirement benefits. The Bureau of Retirements denied the application. And the Public Employees’ Retirement System affirmed. The Appellate Division found that the plaintiff’s claim was “simply unsupported by the record” and affirmed.

#AdministrativeLaw, #EmplymentLaw,


Boley v. Universal Health Svs.

In this interlocutory appeal, fiduciaries of a retirement plan appealed the District Court’s certification of a class, which alleged the fiduciaries breached their duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). At issue was whether the typicality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) was satisfied when the class representatives did not invest in each of a defined contribution retirement plan’s available investment options. The Third Circuit affirmed the ecrtification, ruling that because “the class representatives alleged actions or a course of conduct by ERISA fiduciaries that affected multiple funds in the same way, their claims were typical of those of the class.”

#CivilLaw, #EmploymentLaw, #ClassAction

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