Philadelphia lawyer faces $1M sanction in med-mal trial
At the outset of trial, the judge instructs counsel that there is to be no mention of the victim’s smoking habit because it may unfairly bias the jury. During trial, an expert witness for the defense mentions the forbidden and the following ensues…
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto slapped Atty. Nancy Raynor with nearly $1 million in court sanctions Nov. 4 because one of her witnesses testified that a woman at the heart of a medical malpractice trial had been a smoker, breaching a court order against such a statement. The family of the woman, who had died of lung cancer, won a $190,000 verdict, but Panepinto reversed the award and ordered another trial, finding that the smoking reference had unfairly tilted the scales in favor of the defense.
The sanctions were intended to reimburse the woman’s family and her attorneys for the lost time and expense of the first trial. But the decision has triggered sharp criticism, not only from the society, but also from members of the defense bar and others, who say the amount of the sanctions is unprecedented, and, given disputed facts in the matter, unwarranted.
Defense attorney, Nancy Raynor, and members of the defense team say that she repeatedly advised the witness of the judge’s instructions. Unfortunately, Raynor’s malpractice insurance excludes coverage for court-imposed sanctions. Now, Doctor’s rally on behalf of lawyer facing $1m sanctions and the legal community in Philadelphia is in an uproar. Yet another reminder of the heightened stakes in our profession. See also, Lawyer sanctioned $1M for allowing smoking reference in med-mal trial.
Helping the Court Reporter
A clean, coherent, and intelligible deposition transcript is invaluable to a trial attorney. It can prevent the waste of hours of trial preparation spent decoding same. It may also be the key piece of evidence used to impeach a witness during cross-examination and question his or her credibility.
With that, know that the court reporter is your friend — help your friend help you. To do so, see this article that list best practices and suggestions for handling a court reporter at a deposition. A brief must read for any trial attorney.
When you’re taking a deposition, you know that ensuring a complete and accurate record is vital. So don’t take the person who’s dutifully taking down the proceedings for granted: Assisting the court reporter is not only polite, it might be the key to a clean depo transcript to use at trial.
Helping the court reporter start even before the deposition begins by
- Showing up early to organize documents for convenient reference and mark them as exhibits.
- Giving the reporter a copy of the case caption so the transcript will include the correct case name and court number.
- If the deponent is an expert, offering the reporter a written glossary of unusual terms that will be used during the deposition.
Read more: Give the Reporter a Hand to Get a Clean Depo Transcript
Bully Times — Be Prepared
One day, one morning, one afternoon, it will happen — the inevitable encounter with the bullying lawyer. As I continue to acclimate myself with the practice of law in a new environment, with a new town comes new rules. For that reason, amongst many, I immediately identified with the following article. The writer outlines the importance of young attorneys standing ready to confront the older more experienced attorney that
may will bully you. The author details how the foe may present him or herself in a number of disguises. Bullies do not always appear as the big bad wolf, they may very well be the sly cunning fox. Either way, it’s important that you stand your ground. Of course, we all make mistakes and can learn a great deal from the more seasoned attorneys; however, never allow that to compromise your ability or confidence to perform well. More experience is simply more “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.” Not superiority.
It Was Just a Routine Motion
One of the first matters I worked on involved drafting a relatively routine bankruptcy motion to reject a contract for a corporate debtor. After filing and serving the motion, I received a call from counsel to the counterparty to the contract. He immediately lit into me, accusing me of filing a frivolous motion, threatening sanctions and questioning my qualifications — that’s the G-rated version.
Whoa. I was shaken up. This guy was pretty seasoned, at least in terms of years of experience. At the end of the conversation I was convinced I had really messed up, and that my legal career was pretty much over.
Read more: You Will Be Bullied — Be Prepared
PA Supreme Court shifts the world of products liability
The PA Supreme Court recently shifted the world of products liability with its opinion in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. While scholars and attorneys continue to dissect the 137 page opinion, “what can be said immediately about this landmark decision is this: (1) the Court has not adopted the Third Restatement (although the Third Restatement is extensively discussed); (2) Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company (Pa 1978), which created Pennsylvania’s idiosyncratic version of Section 402A of the Second Restatement, has been overruled. BUT (3) there are many stated variables and contingencies that will have to be carefully evaluated and clearly will have significant consequences in pending and yet to be filed cases in Pennsylvania state and federal courts.” Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel member Bill Ricci.
Proper Objection, or Not?!?
Two of the potentially most important areas to understand for a deposition are proper and improper objections. You’d be amazed at just how many improper objections are frequently asserted.
And so the saying goes, “one lie can ruin a thousand truths.” In the context of depositions, “one improper objection can erase your good standing, while one waived objection can ruin your case.”
The two most often improperly used objections in a deposition are relevance and hearsay. It is not necessary that the question itself be non-hearsay or relevant, only that it must be reasonably capable of leading to admissible evidence. Put simply, “If the question may lead to admissible evidence than it is relevant.” (See link below)
The NEXT Chapter…
This is a professional legal blog and I aim to operate it as such. Yet, there are exceptions to every rule and here is the place where one applies. The recent lapse in post, as well as changes that may occur moving forward call for an explanation. Here it is…
I married the love of my life on August 10, 2014. Very soon thereafter, I accepted an attorney position as a litigator practicing insurance defense at Baginski, Mezzanotte, Hasson, & Rubinate in Philadelphia, PA.
The change has been met with nonstop movement and a huge increase in responsibility. I mention this because naturally as I continue to increase my depth of knowledge in this new practice area a majority of my post may center around it. To do so without notice would be inapt.
Practicing in Philadelphia has been both exciting and overwhelming. On one hand, there is the ever-changing rules and practices of Pennsylvania courts and on the other, there is the thrill of walking into City Hall every other day. The two contrast – among many – balance out quite nicely. Nonetheless, the objective of this blog is to share everyday lessons learned by a young up and coming attorney. I plan to continue doing so only in a slightly different form. Be sure to follow…
Widener’s Delaware Journal of Corporate Law Receives Top Honor
The Delaware Journal of Corporate Law recently took a distinguished top honor in a national ranking of law reviews.
The Journal ranked first among student-edited journals that specialize in “corporations and associations” and in “commercial law,” based upon citations in federal and state court opinions over the last eight years. The ranking, from data compiled by Washington & Lee University School of Law, also placed theJournal seventh out of 372 specialized student-edited law reviews for citations overall.
This means that courts cite articles published by the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law more often than any other corporate and commercial journal in the country, and that only six other journals in any field are cited by courts more than the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law.
The ranking was based on printed law journals published in the United States.
Established in 1975 to keep business-law practitioners abreast of critical issues, the Journal has continually provided the nation’s legal community with well-researched and analytical articles. Its location at Widener Law in Wilmington, Del. puts the Journal in a unique position to maintain a corporate law focus. It is published three times each year. Subscribers include The United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Delaware Supreme Court, Delaware Court of Chancery, Time Warner Inc., DIRECTV Group and numerous national and local law firms…
It is great to see my law school alma mater doing great things. Congratulations to all of the students, both past and present, that worked so hard to achieve this accomplishment.
See more, Widener’s Delaware Journal of Corporate Law leads national ranking.
SCOTUS Sweeping Embrace of Digital Privacy
Since 1914, the “search incident to arrest” exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, has allowed police to search any items that a person had on them, or within reach in a car when arrested. Over time, natural progression led to the inclusion of cell phones in these searches.
In Riley v. California, an individual was stopped for a traffic violation that led to an arrest on weapons charges. Upon arrest, the police officer searched the defendant’s cell phone and found photographs and videos that were used to charge him for a previous shooting.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled in Riley, that the “search incident to arrest” exception does not apply to cellphones because of their nature. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his opinion for the Court, “it is no exaggeration to say that many of the more than ninety percent of American adults who own a cell phone keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives — from the mundane to the intimate.” As a result, individuals should be protected from the search of these devices without a warrant. See, Opinion Analysis: Broad Cloak of Privacy for Cellphones.
In ruling so, the Court rejected every argument placed before it that an officer should be permitted to search a cellphone taken from an arrestee. It left open just one option for such searches without a court order: if police are facing a dire emergency, such as trying to locate a missing child or heading off a terrorist plot. Even then, it ruled, those “exigent” exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant would have to satisfy a judge after the fact.Id. The protection also applies to remotely stored private information that can be accessed by the cellphone.
While unbeknownst to half the world, a war is erupting amongst ridesharing services and the taxicab industry. New ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft, offer high quality services at a fraction of the cost of traditional taxicabs. Unlike those taxicabs, they are not heavily regulated and taxed, enabling them to undercut the competition. This has left longstanding taxicab companies screaming foul, as opposed to acknowledging the greater issue, stagnation.
Ridesharing on the Rise
Uber is now operating in more than 100 cities in 37 countries. Just last week it launched in Miami, Orlando and Austin, while in other areas the company openly defies orders to cease and desist. In most jurisdictions, the argument as to whether ridesharing companies should be regulated along with taxicabs, hinders upon whether they are considered a true ride pairing service or cars operating with meters. Uber’s position is that its app is simply an electronic means to hitch a ride, and that their vehicles do not classify as meter operated taxis because the smartphone running the app does not have to be attached to the vehicle. The opposing view is that Uber’s smartphone app operates as a meter and thus must be regulated under the same laws as other taxicabs. For now the debate continues; however, what we do know is that taxicab drivers are losing money and they want it fixed fast.
“We want something that’s fair to everybody,” said Parminder Cheema, a taxicab driver and elected member of the association’s leadership council. Taxi drivers frustration stems from the fact that they’ve had to abide by city rules — which include licensing fees, commercial insurance laws, and a bevy of other requirements — for decades, while Uber and others have come into town and conducted business in their own manner. The taxi medallion that permits one to operate a yellow cab in New York cost upwards of 1 million dollars.
Interestingly enough, while governments are moving swiftly to limit the expansion and growth of Uber and similar companies they are “tripping over themselves to lay down a legal framework for an impending wave of driverless cars—and autonomous car services would eliminate labor from transportation entirely.” This ongoing conundrum teaches a great lesson, at the expense of the taxicab industry. Never stop innovating. Never stop moving forward.