Courts are faced with the difficult task of drawing a line to determine when the failure to preserve evidence becomes culpable enough to permit a judicial remedy. In State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Cohen, No. 19-1947, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163681, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (District Court) made clear that a party is not entitled to a spoliation sanction without proof that the alleged spoliation was beyond accident or mere negligence. The District Court emphasized that when evidence goes missing or is destroyed, the party seeking a spoliation sanction must show that the alleged spoliation was intentional and that the alleged spoliator acted in “bad faith” before adverse inferences will be provided. Continue reading
In Joella v. Cole, 2019 PA Super. 313, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently considered whether a tenant, alleged by the landlord’s property insurance carrier to have carelessly caused a fire, was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s policy. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured because the lease stated that the landlord would procure insurance for the building, which created a reasonable expectation that the tenant would be a co-insured under the policy. Since the tenant was an implied co-insured on the policy, the insurance carrier could not maintain a subrogation action against the tenant. This case confirms that Pennsylvania follows a case-by-case approach when determining whether a tenant was an implied co-insured on a landlord’s insurance policy. Continue reading
Since the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., 104 A.3d 328 (Pa. 2014), parties proceeding in product liability cases in Pennsylvania often disagree about jury instructions. In Davis v. Volkswagen Grp. of Am., No. 1405 EDA 2018, 2019 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2763, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, in an unpublished opinion, recently addressed whether the trial court gave proper jury instructions in a products liability case against Volkswagen entities, including Volkswagen Aktiengeselleschaft (Volkswagen). The court held that, despite a statement in Tincher that the plaintiff is the “master of the claim,” the trial court properly instructed the jury on both the consumer expectation test and the risk-utility test for establishing that the product at issue, a Volkswagen Passat, was in a defective condition. Continue reading
Defective products harm consumers. Courts have consistently held, however, that Amazon is not liable for defective products acquired through its on-line marketplace because the company is not a “seller” and is otherwise protected by the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, applying Pennsylvania law, rejected both defenses in Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc. No.18-1041 (3rd Cir. July 3, 2019). Continue reading
In Morse v. Fisher Asset Management, LLC, 2019 Pa. Super. 78, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania considered whether the plaintiff’s action was stayed when the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint after sustaining the defendants’ preliminary objections seeking enforcement of an arbitration clause in the contract at issue. The Superior Court—distinguishing between a defendant who files a motion to compel arbitration and a defendant who files preliminary objections based on an arbitration clause—held that, in the latter scenario, if the defendant’s preliminary objections are sustained, the statute of limitations is not tolled. This case establishes that, in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs seeking to defeat a challenge to a lawsuit based on a purported agreement to arbitrate need to pay close attention to the type of motion the defendant files to defeat the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Continue reading
How the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Decision in Kamara Changes the Legal Landscape for Workers’ Compensation Subrogation and Successfully Moving Forward
On November 21, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, reversed the Superior Court stating a right of action in Pennsylvania remains with the injured employee. Specifically, the court held that “unless the injured employee assigns her cause of action or voluntarily joins the litigation as a party plaintiff, the insurer may not enforce its statutory right to subrogation by filing an action directly against the tortfeasor.” Continue reading
On June 19, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Whitmoyer v. WCAB (Mountain Country Meats), No. 52 MAP 2017, 2018 Pa. Lexis 2995. The decision reversed longstanding Pennsylvania law and the Commonwealth Court’s decision. The net result of this decision: an insurer can no longer assert a future credit on projected medical benefit payments when settling a third-party case. However, insurers may continue to assert a future credit on indemnity payments. Continue reading
In Adams v. Hellings Builders, Inc., 2016 Pa. Super. 192, 2016 Pa. Super. LEXIS 487, Christopher Adams and his wife, Margaret Adams (Plaintiffs), filed suit against Defendant Hellings Builders, Inc. (Hellings) to recover for moisture-related damage to their home caused by Hellings’ allegedly defective installation of stucco. Hellings filed Preliminary Objections, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim because they were not in privity with Hellings and they had no direct business dealings with Hellings.
In Brown v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 142 A.3d 1 (Pa. Super. May 24, 2016), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed attorney-client privilege and work product claims associated with the ordered production of materials from a third-party administrator’s claim file. The court also discussed whether the video recording of a mock deposition of a defendant’s employee was discoverable as a recorded statement. With respect to the first issue, the court rejected the defendants’ wholesale claim of privilege related to any and all original investigation statements in the third-party administrator’s file. With respect to the ordered production of the mock deposition video, the court found that the video was discoverable pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 4003.4. The Brown case serves as a reminder that a third-party claims administrator’s file materials may be discoverable and recorded statements by party witnesses, even if conducted by counsel in the form of an interview, may be discoverable if they are recorded by a third-party such as a court reporter or videographer.
By: Edward Jaeger and Michael Wolfer
In Gongloff Contracting, L.L.C. v. L. Robert Kimball & Associates, Architects and Engineers, 119 A.3d 1070 (Pa. Super. 2015), the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently held that a negligent misrepresentation claim against an architect does not require a plaintiff to make allegations of an express misrepresentation by the architect in order to survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the economic loss doctrine. The court held that, pursuant to Bilt-Rite Contractors, Inc. v. The Architectural Studio, 581 Pa. 454 (2005), a plaintiff may sufficiently plead a negligent misrepresentation claim by asserting that the architect’s design documents contained false information.