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Are Elder Abuse Cases Mishandled in Pennsylvania?

February 14th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Nursing Home Abuse

Senior citizens are one of our most vulnerable populations, so it is not surprising that abuse of the elderly is increasing in Pennsylvania.  Elder abuse occurs when someone harms, neglects or exploits an older or care-dependent person. According to the Department of Aging, caseworkers handled nearly 32,000 calls about potential elder abuse in the 2017-18 fiscal year, up from 18,500 five years earlier. And now, the Office of State Inspector General, an internal Pennsylvania state government watchdog agency, is criticizing how county-level agencies investigate thousands of complaints they receive about elder abuse. The report highlights failures by some county-level agencies to properly investigate complaints under timelines required by state law and inadequate staffing of the state office that monitors those agencies. It also says investigative practices aren’t standardized across counties and criticizes training requirements for caseworkers as far too weak. While Governor Tom Wolf’s administration claims it has begun to address the report’s findings, the chances of an elderly person's being abused or taken advantage of are still real.  Abuse complaints often involve physical abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. If you or an elderly loved one has suffered harm due…


February 8th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Contracts

New Prime, Inc. v. Oliveira, 2019, U.S. LEXIS 724 (January 15, 2019) Gorsuch, J.-The Federal Arbitration Act requires courts to enforce private arbitration agreements. But like most laws, this one bears its qualifications. Among other things, §1 says that “nothing herein” may be used to compel arbitration in disputes involving the “contracts of employment” of certain transportation workers. 9 U.S.C. §1. And that qualification has sparked these questions: When a contract delegates questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator, must a court leave disputes over the application of §1’s exception for the arbitrator to resolve? And does the term “contracts of employment” refer only to contracts between employers and employees, or does it also reach contracts with independent contractors? Because courts across the country have disagreed on the answers to these questions, we took this case to resolve them.  New Prime is an interstate trucking company and Dominic Oliveira works as one of its drivers. But, at least on paper, Mr. Oliveira isn’t an employee; the parties’ contracts label him an independent contractor. Those agreements also instruct that any disputes arising out of the parties’ relationship should be resolved by an…


February 6th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Insurance

Gallagher v. Geico Indem. Co., 2019 S. C. of PA, LEXIS 345 (January 23, 2019) Baer, J- This appeal requires the Court to determine whether a “household vehicle exclusion” contained in a motor vehicle insurance policy violates Section 1738 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”), 75 Pa.C.S. § 1738, because the exclusion impermissibly acts as a de facto waiver of stacked uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UM” and “UIM,” respectively) coverages.1 We hold that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVFRL. Accordingly, we vacate the Superior Court’s judgment, reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee GEICO Indemnity Company (“GEICO”), and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. The facts underlying this appeal are undisputed. On the morning of August 22, 2012, Appellant Brian Gallagher (“Gallagher”) was operating his motorcycle when William Stouffer (“Stouffer”) failed to stop his pickup truck at a stop sign. Stouffer’s truck collided with Gallagher’s motorcycle, causing Gallagher to suffer severe injuries. At the time of the accident, Gallagher had two insurance policies; he purchased both of the policies from GEICO. One policy, which included $50,000 of UIM coverage, insured…


February 6th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Medical Malpractice

Shaheen v. The Williamsport Hospital, No. 18-0188 (C.P. Lycoming January 22, 2019) Linhardt, J.  This matter concerns Eli Shaheen’s (“Plaintiff”) suit against The Williamsport Hospital and UPMC Susquehanna (“Defendants”) on behalf of Val Cooper (“Ms. Cooper”) who allegedly died from third degree burns resulting from Ms. Cooper’s use of a cigarette lighter while connected to supplemental oxygen.1 Plaintiff claims that Defendants, and their agents, were negligent, careless and/or reckless for failing to appropriately supervise and attend to Ms. Cooper when they knew she was addicted to tobacco and suffering from dementia. In the present case, the focus is on an inanimate object and its travels through the hospital. Allowing Plaintiff to broadly proclaim culpability of the entire hospital enters a plain beyond Sokolsky and its progeny. The Court will not entertain a fishing expedition. Plaintiff is required to amend his complaint to include general identifiers for those actors or agents Plaintiff believes are culpable. The facts do not allege that consultations were necessary, that Ms. Cooper was improperly diagnosed, or that medical staff were improperly granted privileges. Therefore, Plaintiff is required to amend the Complaint to include factual support or…

Is There a Solution to Parking Shortages for Large Trucks in Pennsylvania?

February 4th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Personal Injury, Truck Accidents

The shortage of parking places for large trucks in Pennsylvania has created dangerous conditions for all motorists. Truck drivers can drive only so far before becoming fatigued and having to stop for necessities such as food, water, gas, bathrooms, and sleep, but the facilities for parking vehicles legally and safely are woefully inadequate. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot), shortfalls in parking capacity in heavily traveled corridors may exceed triple the amount of available parking spaces.  On the Pennsylvania turnpike alone, there is a deficit of 890 parking spots for trucks, and frustrated truckers wind up leaving their vehicles wherever they can, usually alongside the highways or on ramps.  This creates problems for both truckers and motorists who have to navigate a maze of large vehicles parked where they do not belong.  In addition, trucks pulling back onto the road from unsafe parking can cause crashes. Any crash involving largely trucks is likely to be devastating and result in serious injuries or death. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (https://www.iihs.org/iihs), 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. If you or a loved one has…


January 25th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Medical Malpractice

Leight v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Physicians, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1410 (December 31, 2018) Colville, J.-Order affirmed by the Superior Court dismissing the case. The Leighst do not allege that UPP or Pitt was negligent in its examination or treatment of the patient while he was an involuntary patient or out-patient, or voluntarily in-patient at any facility. The Leights attempt to expand the scope of the MHPA by asserting a treatment decision on a voluntary out-patient basis establish a duty on UPP that Pitt to protect an individual from the patient. Shick, the patient, killed one person and injured several others including plaintiff Kathryn Leight at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. 


January 25th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Insurance

Montgomery Hosp. & Med. Ctr. vs. Bureau of Med. Care Availability & Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE Fund), 2019 Pa. Cmwlth LEXIS 28 (January 4, 2019) Simpson, J.-Hospital seeks a declaration that it is entitled to §715 status and that the MCARE Fund must be a hospital’s defense cost to the third-party action. Section 715 of the MCARE Act deems a third-party claim to have been brought less than four years after the negligent act where the defendant medical provider rendered “multiple treatments or consultations” to third-party plaintiff-patient within the four year period. Claims falling into this latter category are not covered §715 status. The hospital claimed that the radiologist whose liability was sought by plaintiff were independent contractors and not employees of the hospital. The hospital position as to who is responsible for the radiologist is irrelevant since the plaintiff has pled ostensible agency, which is expressly governed by the MCARE Act. The court could not conclude as a matter of law that the hospital could not be liable for vicarious liability in connection with the radiologist’s allegedly negligent treatment of third-party plaintiff during the four year period preceding…

True Dialogue Between Patients and Doctors Would Reduce Harmful, Dangerous Medical Errors

January 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Medical Malpractice

Patients seeking medical care can wind up being harmed instead from medical errors made by medical professionals and institutions. A May 2016 Johns Hopkins study indicated that 10 percent of all U.S. deaths are due to medical error, which has become the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.   Studies have shown, for example, that the number of preventable deaths in American hospitals are the equivalent of two 747s crashing every month with a loss of all lives aboard.  Would the public ever accept that?  Ten percent (10%) of hospital admissions wind up with patients getting infections.  Preventable deaths in hospitals and caused by doctors are a leading cause of death in the United States. This is an unacceptable situation, and one that doctors and hospitals are trying to remedy.  Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act of 2002 tasked the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PSA) with reducing medical errors by identifying problems and implementing solutions that promote patient safety. PSA data claims that efforts to reduce harm are paying off with a 45 percent decline in “high harm” events from 2005 through 2014.…

Drivers with Multiple DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania

January 11th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Car Accidents, Criminal, Dram Shop Act

Drivers who repeatedly drive while intoxicated, even after getting multiple DUI convictions, put themselves and others at risk. Drunk driving is a major cause of car crashes that kill and maim people throughout Pennsylvania.  In 2017, the department of transportation (PennDOT) recorded 12,040 crashes where a driver was suspected of being impaired, a 2.1 percent increase from 2016. With the holiday drinking season in full swing, Pennsylvania lawmakers have voted to increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders. On December 23, 2018, a law went into effect that increases penalties for those with a third conviction of driving with at least twice the legal limit of alcohol in their system, and for anyone with fourth DUI convictions. In addition, mandatory jail time for repeat offenders is longer. If you or a loved one was injured or if someone has died in a crash involving drunk driving, you may have a claim for compensation for your losses. This includes medical, hospital and rehabilitation costs, lost past and future wages, loss of wage horizon, and other economic expenses.  Compensation may also include the even more significant concept of non-economic damages such as loss…


December 18th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Employment Rights

Greco v. Myers Coach Lines, Inc., 2018 Pa. Super. 306 (November 15, 2018) Ott, J.  Myers Coach Lines appealed from the judgment of $2,400 in a wrongful discharge case pursuant to the Whistleblower Law.  43 P.S. §§ 1421-1428.  The court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of JNOV in favor of Myers Coach.  The claim was that of a firing due to a safety report to PennDOT.  Also asserted was a common law claim of wrongful discharge.  The first question is, what is “wrongdoing” as defined by the law?   In order to prove a violation of the Whistleblower Law, Greco must demonstrate she made a report of some action by her employer or its agent, which, if proven, would constitute a violation of a law or regulation.  Moreover, the report must be of an actual violation, not a potential or contemplated violation.  It is for that reason Greco’s Whistleblower Law claim fails. Therefore, while her superiors expressed their dissatisfaction with the regulations, and their skepticism regarding her interpretation of those reguolations, such actions do not constitute a “wrongdoing.” According to her own testimnony, Greco did not make a…



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