Appellate Decisions

Pennsylvania Superior Court Decision Can Help Injured Plaintiffs Recover More

It has been a decade since then Governor Tom Corbett signed into the law what was called the Fair Share Act (FSA), although the Unfair Share Act may have been a more accurate name. Before the FSA, if two defendants caused your injuries, but one couldn’t afford to pay, the other defendant was responsible. Under the FSA, a defendant is responsible for paying the total verdict only if it was more than 60 percent at fault. In that case, the victim of the negligence only received 60 cents per dollar.

That all changed on March 18, 2021 when the Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded in Spencer v. Johnson that the FSA’s limits on recoveries applied only when the victim was partly responsible for some of his or her injuries.

In Spencer, the Superior Court clarified that when a plaintiff has not contributed to his or her injuries, then each defendant is responsible for the entire jury award. This is a far fairer share.

Our office has regularly fought for our clients and others against reforms like these that only reduced victim’s rights. That’s what we do while representing injured individuals. If you were injured by another party’s negligence, please call our office at 610-446-3457 or click here to send an email to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get the recovery you deserve.

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Another Pennsylvania Supreme Court Victory for Injured Workers; Attorney Dan Siegel Authored Friend of the Court Brief

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled yet again that injured workers cannot lose their wage loss benefits based on an unconstitutional Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). In its June 16, 2020 decision in Dana Holding Corp. v. WCAB, the Court ruled that injured workers are entitled to wage losses retroactive to the date of the IRE, provided their case was in litigation when the Court issued its landmark Protz decision declaring the IRE process unconstitutional. Click here to read the decision in Dana Holding.

Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC, co-authored the Amicus (Friend of the Court) brief for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ), which sought reinstatement of the injured worker’s benefits. Attorney Siegel was also the author of the PAJ’s Amicus brief in Protz, and is the only attorney who served as counsel in both landmark decisions.

Over the past decade, Attorney Siegel has served as counsel or Amicus counsel in cases preserving or extending the rights of more injured workers and others than any Pennsylvania lawyer. His firm regularly represents injured workers and other injured in accidents and from other causes. If you need an attorney, give us a call at (610) 446-3457 or click here to send an email and learn how we can help you.

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Supreme Court Rules in Favor Of Workers in Age Discrimination Claims

Employment discrimination claims are a challenge because almost all end up in Federal Courts where the law has favored employers. That’s why when an employee wins a claim, it’s important. When an employee wins a claim in the U.S. Supreme Court, it is an even more important victory because that decision will impact every employee who subsequently files a claim.

That’s why the decision on Monday, April 6, 2020 is so important. In Babb v. Wilkie, the Supreme Court ruled that “federal workers 40 and older are entitled to a personnel process ‘untainted by any consideration of age.’” In its 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court found that “it is conceivable that Congress meant for federal workers to have higher protection from possible age discrimination than workers in the private sector or who work for state and local governments,” but “that to get relief such as hiring, reinstatement or monetary damages, a worker still must eventually prove that the adverse employment action would not have been taken except for the worker’s age.” Every Justice joined in the decision, except Justice Thomas, who dissented.

The decision is a victory for every worker because the language of Justice Alito’s Majority Opinion is relevant to anyone who claims that their age was a factor in the decision to fire them. As the syllabus to the Opinion summarizes, “The plain meaning of §633a(a) [of the ] demands that personnel actions be untainted by any consideration of age. To obtain reinstatement, damages, or other relief related to the end result of an employment decision, a showing that a personnel action would have been different if age had not been taken into account is necessary, but if age discrimination played a lesser part in the decision, other remedies may be appropriate.

We fight hard for every employee wronged by an employer, whether injured at work or fired. Give us a call.

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Another Victory for Pa. Workers’ Compensation Medical Providers

The Commonwealth Court has, in another case in which Attorneys Dan Siegel and Christa High were appeals court counsel, eliminated yet another method used by insurers and employers to prevent medical providers who treat injured workers in Pennsylvania from being paid. In the case, Workers’ First Pharmacy v. Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fee Review Hearing Office, the Court ruled that when a provider seeks payment for treatment or services under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the insurer or employer may not claim that the care was not “causally related” to the injury. If it intends to dispute whether the treatment was related to the work injury, it must file a utilization review.

This is the latest in a series of appeals court victories for the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC that has yet again helped assure that doctors and other medical providers will be paid for the care they provide to injured workers. This also helps assure that doctors and other medical providers will be willing to provide the care these injured workers need.

Attorneys Dan Siegel and Christa High not only represent medical providers, but also represent injured workers, assuring that they receive every type of compensation they are entitled to. Dan Siegel wrote The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law Book  and The Injured Worker’s Guide to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law, a FREE book for injured workers

When you need a lawyer who not only knows the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law system, contact the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC the Law Firm Whose Cases Make the Law.

We don’t have billboards and TV ads, WE HAVE RESULTS!

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court bars insurance companies from taking away benefits from and invading the privacy rights of auto accident victims.

Recovering from an automobile accident can be difficult and painful. It is even harder if your auto insurance company requires you to go to a medical examination whenever it wants and with a doctor it selects—or risk losing your benefits. No more. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that insurance companies cannot mandate that insureds submit to independent medical examinations whenever the insurance company wants because these policies violate public policy (essential fairness) and are “repugnant” to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL).

In Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Company, the Supreme Court concluded that the auto insurance policy provisions mandating these exams were void, emphasizing that these impacted the insureds’ “significant privacy interests” because they set no limits.

We regularly represent individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents and can assist you. You can call our office at 610-446-3457 to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. We will explain the process, guide you and fight to get you the benefits and recovery you need.

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Another Supreme Court Victory for Injured Workers (In Which Philadelphia Area Attorney Dan Siegel Was Counsel)!

If you get hurt walking to your job from the parking lot, you are often eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania. On November 20, 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously agreed that injured workers should be compensated if they are injured in a parking area—even if that parking area is optional. Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC submitted the friend of the court brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice.

In US Airways, Inc. and Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bockelman), the Court agreed that a US Airways employee, who was injured on a shuttle bus taking her to an employee parking lot that was not owned by the employer, was entitled to wage losses and payment of her medical bills. Justice David Wecht authored the Opinion, writing that “the phrase ‘the employer’s premises’ in [the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation] Act should be construed liberally to include any area that is integral to the employer’s business operations, including any reasonable means of ingress to or egress from the workplace.” Because “the lot in which Bockelman parked her vehicle was integral to US Airways’ business operations,” she was entitled to benefits.

This is one of many Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases in which our office successfully represented the interests of injured workers and other accident victims, including many cases referred to our office by other lawyers. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457 to learn how we can help you.

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Why Voting Matters – the General Assembly and Protz

We all hear that voting matters. Recent events highlight why voting matters for every worker in Pennsylvania and why, if the legislature reflected the values of injured workers, this blog post might be different. Tomorrow, Pennsylvanians vote for judges, and it’s important to vote for candidates who reflect your values; your vote matters.

Here are the details. In 1997, the legislature amended the Workers’ Compensation Act to allow insurance companies to reduce injured workers’ benefits through a process known as an impairment rating exam (IRE). It took 20 years, but through the efforts of our office and others, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the IRE process unconstitutional in an opinion known as Protz II.

So what did the legislature do? In 2018, it enacted a new IRE process, fixing the problems that made the entire process unconstitutional. As a result, the IRE is back and insurance companies are using it one again to reduce the benefits available to Pennsylvania’s injured workers. And one appeals court has now ruled that the amendments were legally enacted.

If we had elected more legislators sympathetic to the plight of injured workers, there would not have been a new IRE process, and workers would have more rights than they do now.

Just like that, we are back to a process that can be used to reduce benefits for the majority of injured workers. So when you go to vote, for judges, for legislators, or for anyone else, make sure you find out where they stand on issues that matter to you.

Our office regularly represents injured workers and fights hard to get them the benefits they deserve – even if the system is not always fair. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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Interlocutory Appeals – When is the Right Time?

The term itself sounds alien – “interlocutory.” It refers to interim court decisions that usually aren’t appealable. Yet, the Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rules permit parties to appeal from some interlocutory rulings. The rub is when and how, two considerations lawyers may not think about or understand. Today, we won a case in which the Superior Court concluded that it could decide an interlocutory appeal based on Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 341(c). The decision in Sawyers v. Davis is interesting because, to convince the Court, we had to carefully nuance the arguments in our brief and particularly at oral argument. The result: the plaintiff whose case was tossed gets her day in court. Click here to read the Superior Court decision in Sawyers v. Davis.

So, when can you appeal an interlocutory order? Attorneys need to closely review Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 311, which says an “appeal may be taken as of right” without a final order, namely: orders affecting judgments; orders involving attachments, change of criminal venue or venire, injunctions, peremptory judgment in mandamus, new trials, or partition; and orders relating to venue or personal or in rem jurisdiction, preliminary objections in eminent domain matters and certain Commonwealth criminal appeals. There is a catch-all for “other cases” in which an “order is made final or appealable by statute or general rule, even though the order does not dispose of all claims and all parties.” Rule 311(a)(8).

A real nuance is Rule 311(f), which specifically addresses appeals following an administrative remand. Parties may appeal as of right: “(1) an order of a common pleas court or government unit remanding a matter to an administrative agency or hearing officer for execution of the adjudication of the reviewing tribunal in a manner that does not require the exercise of administrative discretion; or (2) an order of a common pleas court or government unit remanding a matter to an administrative agency or hearing officer that decides an issue that would ultimately evade appellate review if an immediate appeal is not allowed.”

Recently, the Commonwealth Court threw out an appeal because the Environmental Hearing Board’s decision was not appealable as of right under Rule 311(f)(1). In the case, Sunoco appealed from an Environmental Hearing Board Order sending a dispute back to DEP for further consideration. The Court concluded that the appeal did not satisfy Rule 311(f)(1) or (2) because the DEP would have to exercise administrative discretion and the issue would not evade appellate review.

Additionally, Rules 312 and 1311 address interlocutory appeals by permission and require you to file a petition to permission from an interlocutory order with the statement contained in 42 Pa. C.S. § 702(b).

Determining whether you can file an interlocutory appeal can be complicated. Our office regularly assists attorneys deciding whether they can file an appeal, and can assist at any point in the litigation. Just give us a call at (610) 446-3457.

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Why Teamwork Matters

We practice law as a team, not as individuals who just “do their own thing” and reject the input of our colleagues. Doing so allows us to spot “holes” in arguments, improve the focus of whatever point we are trying to make, and – most importantly – win cases and get the best results for our clients. And many of our clients are other attorneys who seek our advice or hire us to handle their appeals.

But not all lawyers subscribe to this belief – to them, ego matters more – they need all the credit.

Consider this scenario. I agreed to collaborate on an amicus (friend of the court) brief for a lawyers group about a legal issue where I had previously drafted an amicus brief that contributed to what was called the most important Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in over 30 years. But like any landmark case, the decision needed some fine interpretations and cases are pending in various appellate courts.

I agreed to collaborate on amicus briefs in both the Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court, both coincidentally due last week. My collaborator was an attorney with whom I had not worked. He provided me with drafts of the briefs. The briefs contained some excellent arguments, but were turgid, one exceeded the word limit, and both were begging for improvement. So I decided to do so.

One brief was 3,000 words too long, and the lawyer framed the legal issue as:

Whether Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II) is to be applied retroactively to the date on which Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because the modification from total to partial was based on an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) conducted under statutes since held unconstitutional. Failure to give Protz II full retroactivity violates the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I revised the issue to read:

In Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), 161 A.3d 827 (Pa. 2017) (Protz II), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the Impairment Rating Evaluation provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Because all IREs were deemed void ab initio, does Protz II apply retroactively to the date on which a Claimant’s 500 weeks of partial disability benefits elapsed because any other modification would violate the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I also added multiple introductory sections, and cut the brief down to the proper word limit.  My “collaborator’s” reply was: “Your rewriting of my brief is great. … How did you do that so quickly?” He still filed his draft as written.

The Court rejected the brief my “collaborator” filed as too long. He received permission to file a shorter brief. Did he file my “great” version? No. He cut his dense document by 3,000 words and ignored me.

As for the Pa. Supreme Court brief, I revised his draft to make it more persuasive and reader-friendly. His reply: He attacked me viciously in email. Other attorneys who read it said it was “great” or “perfect.”

My guess is that when the Pa. Supreme Court rules, it will cite our amicus brief, as it regularly does. In fact, one Supreme Court Justice has publicly commented about the quality of my briefs, using compliments that made me speechless.

My “collaborator” is an excellent lawyer by all accounts. He just does not like collaborating, and seems to fit into the subject of Robert Sutton’s great book. But for our office, and our clients, and all the other injured persons we help by writing amicus briefs, we will continue to collaborate. After all, our goal is results!

 

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Batting 1000 – Attorney Dan Siegel is 6 for 6 in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted our arguments completely and issued a landmark decision in Feliccia v. Lackawanna Universityholding that (1) a university “had a duty to provide duly licensed athletic trainers for the purpose of rendering treatment to its student athletes participating in athletic events,” and (2) a Waiver of Liability is unenforceable as to claims of gross negligence and recklessness. The Majority Opinion agreed with plaintiffs’ claim that the university assumed a duty toward the football players, noting that “the present factual scenario supports a determination that ‘affirmative conduct’ by appellants created a ‘special relationship’ with and increased risk of harm to its student athletes such that appellants had a duty to ‘exercise reasonable care to protect them against an unreasonable risk of harm arising’ from that affirmative conduct. … the record supports a finding appellants undertook a duty to provide duly licensed athletic trainers for the purpose of rendering treatment to its student athletes participating in athletic events, including the football practice.” Click here to read the Opinion.

Attorney Dan Siegel Has Never Lost a Case He Has Litigated in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

A few people have asked me this week what my track record is in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It turns I am 6 for 6, winning four cases as counsel, and winning two as appellate counsel. To say I am proud of this accomplishment is an understatement.

What’s more important, however, is that we live in a world in which every lawyer seems to have “participation trophies,” which are often nothing more than “pay to play.” Everyone is a Super Lawyer, or is ranked as a Best Lawyer, or has a 10/10 rating on some other site. While many of these attorneys are excellent, how many can say they have never lost a case in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or that insurance really are more likely to settle cases with Attorney Dan Siegel because they know that, if needed, we will take cases on appeal, and we win? Not every appeal, but a large majority.

So, when you search for Dan Siegel on those “rating” sites, you may not find me because I don’t pay to have a high ranking, or to have my name displayed.

I prefer to let the “reporters” – the books that contain Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court and Superior Court opinions – display my name. They don’t charge, your name is published on merit.

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