May 24th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

In re Trust Established, 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 227 (May 23, 2022) (Murray, J.)  A trustee cannot withhold from any beneficiary documents regarding the management of the trust, including opinions of counsel procured by the trustee to guide the trustee in the administration of the trust, because trust law imposes a duty to make these documents available to the beneficiaries. Consistent with the legal authority, a trustee is privileged from disclosing to beneficiaries or co-trustees' opinions obtained from, and other communications with, counsel retained for the trustees' personal protection in the course, or in anticipation, of litigation. See McAleer I, 194 A.3d at 597. The balancing of interests affords the greatest protection to beneficiaries, trustees and counsel. In so holding, we acknowledge the requested documents in this case pertain to the accounting period from March 22, 1994, through December 31, 2019.  Our review discloses no litigation pending against trustees during the accounting period.


May 10th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

Family v. Pennenergy Resources, 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 182 (April 29, 2022) (McCaffery, J.)  In this oil and gas lease/breach of contract matter, Dressler Family, LP (Appellant) appeals from the order entered in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment in favor of PennEnergy Resources, LLC, as Successor in Interest to R.E. Gas Development, LLC (Appellee). The issue before the trial court, as well as this Court on appeal, is whether a lease provision — setting royalties to be one-eighth (1/8th) of "gross proceeds received from the sale of [gas] at the prevailing price for gas sold at the well" — permits Appellee to deduct post-production costs from the royalties. The parties agree that gas is not, in fact, "sold at the well." The trial court concluded the royalty provision was plain and unambiguous, and it permitted the deduction of post-production costs. On appeal, Appellant argues the trial court erred in this interpretation, and in the alternative, that the lease was ambiguous. We conclude the lease terms are ambiguous and thus reverse and remand. "When . . . an ambiguity exists, parol evidence is admissible to explain or clarify or resolve…


July 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

EVIDENCE-HEARSAY-CHAPLAIN-MEDICAL MALPRACTICE Lutz v. The Williamsport Hospital, Pa. No. CV-18-384 (C.P. Lycoming February 15, 2022) (Tira, J.).  Plaintiff now alleges that Defendant was negligent in, among other things, allowing Mr. Lutz’s physical condition to deteriorate “without appropriate medical intervention for an unreasonable period of time” after he was found unresponsive and in administering “excessive amounts of narcotic pain medication, causing the deterioration of [Mr. Lutz’s] physical, respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological condition, and ultimately causing his death.” It is undisputed that on April 3, 2016, after Mr. Lutz was taken off the ventilator but continued to breathe on his own, the hospital chaplain, Marylou Byerly authored and charted the following note: David is breathing on his own on and off the vent. He is still nonresponsive. Staff is reporting stories of an error. Chaplain does not know if family is aware of this, but staff has shared they are angry because someone told them he would die when he was taken off the vent and he did not die. No family was present on Sunday afternoon. Chaplain prayed with his nurse, Theresa. This Court is of the opinion that, based on…

Evidence Scientific Testimony: Long Term Exposure to PesticidesFrye

June 21st, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

Long Term Exposure to Pesticides and the Death of Golf Course Groundskeeper for 40 Years Walsh v. BASF Corporation, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 686 (June 20, 2018) Bowes, J.  Richard Thomas Walsh, Executor of the Estate of Thomas J. Walsh, Deceased, appeals from the October 14, 2016 order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellees, and challenges the propriety of the trial court’s order barring his experts from testifying pursuant to the standard enunciated in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). Since we conclude that the learned trial court erred in the manner in which it conducted the Frye inquiry herein, we reverse the grant of summary judgment, vacate the order precluding Mr. Walsh’s experts from testifying, and remand for further proceedings. Decedent, Thomas J. Walsh, was employed for almost forty years as a groundskeeper and golf course superintendent at several golf courses in the Pittsburgh area. During his employment, he frequently and regularly applied insecticides and fungicides on the golf courses. Mr. Walsh died on February 2, 2009. His treating oncologist, James Rossetti, D.O., later opined that Mr. Walsh’s extensive chemical exposure, together with “the…


November 28th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

Lattaker v. Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC, No. GD-13-021120 (C.P. Allegheny July 5, 2016) Wettick, J.  This is another Judge Wettick opinion in which he steps back on his controversial opinion in McLane v. Valley Medical Facilities, Inc., 157 P.L.J. 252 (C.P. Allegheny Cnty. 2009).  In this opinion, Judge Wettick says that nothing in the claim suggests that a party may object to the testimony of the treating physician or any other witness who testifies that a review of a slide, chart, report, x-ray and the like may be helpful in refreshing the witness’s memory.  Defendants in Lattaker objected to questions directed to treating physician concerning what was shown on a fetal monitoring strip.  If a physician testifies that he or she would be able to recreate the incident if he or she could see a fetal monitoring strip, this discovery is clearly permitted.  In Lattaker, the defendant treating physician testified that if he looked at the fetal monitoring strip he would be able to testify minute-by-minute as to what he did, when he did it, and why he did it.  However, defendant’s counsel advised the witness not to answer…


April 5th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

Davis v. Byron Wright, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 130; 2017 PA Super. 48 (February 27, 2017) Stevens, P.J.E. The lower court properly ruled as a matter of law that there was no waiver of the protection of the Dead Man’s Statute.  Therefore, surviving adverse parties were not competent to testify at trial regarding the circumstances surrounding the motor vehicle accident in question.  Appellant’s own testimony is barred under the Dead Man’s Statute.  They have not set forth other competent evidence of fault in support of the negligence claims.  Accordingly, the trial court properly determined there were no genuine issues of material fact.  Appellants failed to produce evidence to establish a prima facie case of negligence.  Therefore, appellee was entitled to entry of summary judgment.


March 29th, 2016 by Rieders Travis in Evidence

The Procedure for Precomplaint Discovery and Protective Orders Tullytown Borough v. Armstrong, 129 A.3d 619 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).  Tullytown Borough appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas denying the Borough's motion for protective order.  The Commonwealth Court affirmed.  The plaintiffs filed a writ of summons commencing a civil rights action under § 1983.  The plaintiffs sought to depose nine borough employees.  The individuals were identified but failed to give the reasons for the depositions.  The borough filed a motion for protective order.  Precomplaint discovery was requested pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4003.8 to obtain material for a complaint.  The memorandum of law in support of pre-complaint discovery request gave the reasons for the discovery.  The trial court denied the borough's motion for protective order.  The court relied upon Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4003.8, which permits precomplaint discovery under the circumstances therein described.  The trial court may, but is not required to, direct a party to state how discovery will advance preparation of the complaint.  There was no abuse of discretion.