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Are Construction Zone Dangers a Problem in Pennsylvania? 

January 11th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Car Accidents

You Bet They Are! Construction zones are disasters waiting to happen. People who speed through construction zones greatly increase the danger of being involved in a crash. According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) statistics, there have been 9,383 crashes, 6,249 injuries, and 101 fatalities reported in work zones in the past five years. While those injured are often workers, drivers and passengers are most likely to be the ones injured or killed in construction zone crashes. PennDOT is responsible for 40,000 miles of roadway and 25,000 bridges and follows federal standards for setting up traffic control in a work zone. Pennsylvania has its own laws and regulations which must be complied with. Sometimes there are even private standards that apply. Most work zone crashes take place on state highways and interstates. Long-term makeovers, such as the current one at the Interstate 83/Mount Rose Avenue interchange, and numerous Route 80 repairs, are major danger points.  Construction sites are potentially dangerous even on rural roads. During the day, crews work behind concrete barriers to allow traffic to flow, but at night, it’s often only cones that separate the vehicles from the workers. Truckers are some of the worst…

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-SUBROGATION-HEART AND LUNG ACT BENEFITS

January 10th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Financial Responsibility Law

City of Philadelphia v. Zampogna, 2017 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 1077 (December 27, 2017) Leavitt, P.J.  The City of Philadelphia appealed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, granting declaratory judgment in favor of a City employee.  The trial court held that Section 1720 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law prohibited the City from subrogating its payment of Heart and Lung Act benefits to the employee from his third-party tort recovery.  The Commonwealth Court affirmed the order of the trial court.  The City had petitioned to intervene in the employee’s tort action to protect the subrogation lien it intended to assert against any recovery.  The third-party tort action settled, and the money was placed in escrow while the parties litigated the City’s entitlement to its asserted lien.  The City then initiated a declaratory judgment action to establish its right to recover the Heart and Lung Act benefits it paid to the employee from his settlement. As indicated the Commonwealth Court agreed with the trial court and held that under the law no subrogation was allowed.  The 1990 amendment to Section 1720 of the Motor Vehicle Financial…

NEGLIGENCE-CAUSATION-FACTUAL CAUSE, DEFINITION

January 10th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Negligence

Roverano v. John Crane, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1110 (December 28, 2017) (per curiam).  This was an asbestos case in which the Superior Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for new trial to apportion damages among tortfeasors.  William Roverano was employed at PECO from 1971 until his retirement in 2001.  He developed lung cancer.  Many of the defendants filed for bankruptcy.  All of the defendants except the two that went to trial settled prior to the jury verdict.  The plaintiffs’ experts said that it was both the smoking and exposure to products that caused lung cancer.  The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Roverano and his wife.  The court apportioned the judgment equally among the 8 defendants whom the jury determined to be tortfeasors.  This resulted in a separate entry of judgment against the two remaining defendants for a reduced amount. 1. The court properly charged on factual cause.  The Court did not specifically refer to the Standard Jury Instruction, but that is what was approved.  The court rejected defendant’s request for a “but for causation” jury charge.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has clearly rejected such a…

PRODUCTS LIABILITY-RETAIL SELLERS

January 10th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Products Liability

Oberdorf v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 4:16-CV-01127 (M.D. Pa. December 21, 2017) Brann, J.  Plaintiff suffered a  loss of vision from a retractable leash that malfunctioned.  It snapped backwards, hitting her in the face.  She had purchased the product on amazon.com.  Judge Brann found that Amazon was like an auctioneer, and had no responsibility for the sale of the product.  Amazon Marketplace is like a newspaper classified ad section, connecting potential consumers with eager sellers in an efficient, modern and streamlined manner.  Subjecting Amazon to strict liability would not further the purposes of § 402A.  The court also found that under the Communications Decency Act, no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of information.  Here, the plaintiffs are trying to treat Amazon as the publisher or speaker of information by the seller of the leash.  Case dismissed.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-14TH AMENDMENT-DUE PROCESS-SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS-STATE CREATED DANGER CLAIM-POLICE OFFICER TRAINING

January 4th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Joan Kedra v. Schroeter, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 23982 (3rd Cir. November 28, 2017) Krause, C.J.  This case arises from the death of a state trooper who was shot and killed by his instructor during a routine firearms training.  The training officer treated the gun as though it were unloaded instead of loaded.  He pointed at a person instead of a safe target, and he bypassed the required visual and physical inspection before pulling the trigger, aimed at plaintiff’s decedent’s chest.  The district court threw out the case, stating that it did not fulfill the requirements of a state-created danger in violation of the 14th Amendment substantive due process rights.  The court therefore found qualified immunity.  In other words, there was no deliberate indifference because the objective theory of deliberate indifference was not clearly established at the time of the shooting.  However, because obviousness of risk is relevant to proving actual knowledge and the allegations of the complaint are more than sufficient to support a reasonable inference that the trainer had such knowledge, we conclude that the complaint adequately pleads a state created danger claim under a then clearly established…

INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNINSURED MOTORIST CLAIM-STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

January 4th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Insurance

Erie Insurance Exchange v. Bristol, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 3183 (November 22, 2017) Mundy, J.  The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted allowance of appeal to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run on an uninsured motorist claim.  The Superior Court held that, for purposes of UM and UIM claims, the statute of limitations begins to run when a claimant injured in an automobile accident first learns that the other driver is uninsured or underinsured.  The Supreme Court disagreed and held that the statute of limitations attending contract principles apply and the running of the statute is commenced upon an alleged breach of a contractual duty, which in this case would be occasioned by the insurer’s denial of coverage or refusal to arbitrate.  We therefore reverse the Superior Court’s order to the contrary.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIFTH AMENDMENT-EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE-POLITICAL PARTIES-SIGNATURE GATHERING REQUIREMENTS

January 3rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, et al. v. Pedro A. Cortes, et al., No. 16-3266 (3rd Cir. December 13, 2017) Roth, C.J. This case deals with county based signature-gathering requirements for minor political party.  The case was sent back to the trial court by the Third Circuit to rule on the issue.  This is an equal protection clause challenge.  Signature-gathering requirements have fared poorly in the courts.  Many courts have held that a state’s county-based signature-gathering requirements are unconstitutional.  It is rarely if ever necessary to impose county-based signature requirements as significantly burdened voting rights.  Not all county-based signature-gathering requirements are sufficiently stringent to cause constitutional concern.  After reviewing all of the law, the court decided that the trial court in the first instance should determine whether Pennsylvania law passes muster.  The District Court can impose county-based signature-gathering requirements if it concludes that the requirements would have no appreciable impact on voting rights. The court did not so conclude here.

DEFAMATION-DOCTOR-INNUENDO

January 3rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Defamation

Menkowitz v. Peerless Publications, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1043 (December 15, 2017) Stabile, J.  This is an action where defamation commenced by a private-figure plaintiff against a media defendant involving an issue of public interest.  The court threw out the verdict and entered judgment for the newspaper on a punitive damage award. The Superior Court vacated the judgment in favor of the doctor-plaintiff in its entirety and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the publication.  The plaintiff is a board certified surgeon.  The doctor’s behavior in the hospital was bad, and he was threatened by the hospital for his disruptive and unacceptable conduct.  Finally, the doctor’s privileges were suspended.  Four articles written about this by a newspaper columnist who talked about the rumors surrounding the doctor.  There were also quotes from various patients.  No formal action against the doctor’s medical license was taken by the State Board of Medicine, according to the State Department spokesman.  Eventually, the newspaper reported that the suspension was lifted.  The doctor alleged an injury to reputation and emotional and psychological injuries.  A private figure plaintiff suing a media defendant for defamation must prove…

STANDING-FOOTBALL TICKETS

January 3rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Uncategorized

Finkelman v. National Football League, No. 16-4087 (3rd Cir. December 15, 2017) Fuentes, C.J.  Football ticket purchaser for Super Bowl challenged ticket practices under New Jersey law.  What is important about this case, since the Third Circuit would defer to New Jersey courts, is that Finkelman had standing to bring the action.  The ticketholder alleged sufficient economic harm to bring a claim.  The court examined Article III standing under the Constitution.  Plaintiff bears the burden of proving standing.  Finkelman offered specific factual allegations above those described in other cases.  He alleged a causal change justifying why the NFL’s withholding of tickets set into motion a series of events that ultimately raised prices on the secondary market.  Specifically, Finkelman alleged that insiders to whom the NFL presently provides tickets are more likely to resell those tickets to third-party brokers to keep those sales anonymous, and that those brokers in turn are more likely to charge higher prices.  If more tickets were made available to fans initially, fans would be more likely than the NFL insiders are to sell to direct fan-to-fan sales, and the prices would likely be lower.  The court…

Quality of Care May Depend on Nurses’ Health

December 26th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Medical Malpractice

Unhealthy healthcare workers can be dangerous to your health. For example, nursing is a high-pressure and stressful profession, and nurses are constantly exposed to germs and diseases, so it is no wonder that a recent study found that more than half of nurses reported poor physical and mental health. The study, in the online Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found depression to be the major concern of responding nurses, with about a third reporting some degree of depression, anxiety or stress. Unfortunately for patients, nurses who are depressed or in poor health are subject to making medical errors, at a rate of 26 to 71 percent higher than their healthier peers. The National Academy of Medicine has recently acknowledged that burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, and poor work-life balance affect a large percentage of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. If a nurse or other healthcare worker is impaired by illness or depression, or if a hospital or healthcare facility is not considering the health of their staff and fails to implement strategies to support good physical and mental health in their employees and prevent spread of disease, patients may be…