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Rogers v. Thomas

Pennsylvania Superior Court

May 11, 2021

In Rogers v. Thomas, the Pennsylvania Superior Court heard an appeal from a case that began as a criminal matter. One of the three defendants shot and killed two men on his property. A jury found that defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The decedents’ estate brought wrongful death and survival actions against the killer, his father, and a gun store. In a dense, split decision, the Court held (1) it was error to submit the issue of the killer’s negligence to the jury after a criminal jury entered a verdict against him, (2) the civil jury was permitted to assess the decedents’ comparative negligence, (3) the trial court was correct in entering a nonsuit for the father and the gun store and similarly was correct in denying the decedents’ estates’ motions for a directed verdict against those defendants, (4) the trial court properly excluded some of the decedents’ prior bad acts, and properly admitted other prior bad acts, (5) the decedents’ estates waived a challenge to a coordination order consolidating the cases because Pa.R.A.P. 311(c) permits an appeal from that interlocutory order but no such appeal was taken, and (6) it was not an error to consolidate the cases.

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