Pennsylvania Top Court Strikes Law Containing Asbestos Statute Of Limitations

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Dec. 16 struck down a law amending the state's Megan's Law and imposing a two-year statute of limitations on asbestos actions, saying the legislation violated the "single subject" rule; the court stayed its ruling for 90 days to allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly time to devise a remedy (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Howard Neiman Jr., No. 74 MAP 2011, Pa. Sup.).

Pa. High Court Reconsiders, Won't Disturb $8.6M Prempro Punitive Damages Award

PHILADELPHIA - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Dec. 16 let stand an $8.6 million punitive damages verdict in a Prempro hormone replacement therapy case after dismissing the appeal as improvidently granted (Mary Daniel, et al. v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al., Nos. 63 EAP 2011 and 64 EAP 2011, Pa. Sup.).

School Board's Solicitor Ordered To Submit Responses To Deposition Questions

ERIE, Pa. - A federal judge in Pennsylvania presiding over a civil rights lawsuit on Dec. 9 ordered the solicitor of a defendant school board to submit written responses to three categories of questions that were objected to during his deposition, finding that the requested information was not privileged (Matthew Tighe v. Mona Bushcak, et al., No. 11-cv-224, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172527).

Pa. Federal Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss; Says Indemnity May Be Owed

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Dec. 5 denied an insurer's motion to dismiss claims seeking contribution from it for underlying personal injuries lawsuits arising out exposure to a chemical product on the basis that it is possible that the insurer owes indemnification for defense of the underlying suits (National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa. et al. v. Essex Insurance Co., No. 13-32, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171401).

Pennsylvania Appeals Panel Affirms Exclusion Of Expert In Chemical Exposure Suit

HARRISBURG - A unanimous Pennsylvania Superior Court panel issued an opinion Dec. 6 affirming summary judgment against the widow of a contractor employee who alleges that her late husband contracted cancer as a result of chemical exposure at a Rohm & Haas Co. facility in suburban Philadelphia; the testimony of her causation expert was properly excluded under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 702, according to the panel (Anne Snizavich v. Rohm & Haas Co., No. 1383 EDA 2012, Pa. Super.).

Judge: Asbestos Case Lacks Frequent, Regular, Proximate Exposures

PHILADELPHIA - Insufficient evidence exists to support the conclusion that a man suffered frequent, regular and proximate exposure to asbestos, a Pennsylvania federal judge held Dec. 3 in granting summary judgment to four companies (Jammie C. Tyndall, et al. v. Armstrong International Inc., et al., No. MDL 875, 10-67428, E.D. Pa.).

Pennsylvania Top Court Rejects Challenge To Verdict In Contentious Asbestos Action

PHILADELPHIA - According to its docket, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Dec. 3 denied a couple's petition challenging a defense verdict in an asbestos action involving "improper trial tactics" accusations, an alternate juror's vote and a vacated judgment (George Webber and Tina Webber v. Ford Motor Co., et al., No. 399 EAL 2013, Pa. Sup.).

Defective Product Complaints Alleged Occurrence Under Umbrella Policy, Panel Rules

PITTSBURGH - The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Dec. 3 found that underlying complaints involving defectively designed or manufactured windows and doors alleged an occurrence under a commercial umbrella insurance policy, reversing and remanding a lower court's ruling in favor of the insurer (Indalex Inc., et al. v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, No. 612 WDA 2012, Pa. Super.; 2013 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3186).

Federal Judge Dismisses Suit Seeking Additional $20,864 For Flood Loss

PHILADELPHIA - There is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether a federal flood insurer paid all that was validly claimed of it for insureds' losses arising from a flooded stream, a Pennsylvania federal judge ruled Nov. 27, rejecting the insureds' claims seeking an additional $20,864.28 in damages (Francis Rudi, et al. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., No. 2:11-cv-04362-WY, E.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168618).

Paxil Birth Defect Claimant Didn't Show Concealment Was Aimed At Her, Panel Says

PHILADELPHIA - A claim by a woman who alleges that she had a therapeutic abortion because the antidepressant Paxil caused a heart defect in her unborn son missed a two-year statute of limitations and failed to show that the manufacturer fraudulently concealed the drug's birth defect risk, a Pennsylvania appeals court panel ruled Nov. 17 (Joanne Thomas, et al. v. Smith Kline Beecham Corporation, et al., No. 2461 EDA 2012, Pa. Super.).

Apartment Complex Owner's Clean Water Act Claim Survives Dismissal

PHILADELPHIA - A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Nov. 21 held that an apartment complex owner sufficiently stated a claim under the Clean Water Act (CWA) based on how oil leaked from an underground storage tank on a nearby college campus to a navigable waterway of the United States but dismissed the plaintiff's claim under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), ruling that migration of oil from soil to groundwater does not constitute a discharge under the statute (Tri-Realty Company v. Ursinus College, No. 11-5885, E.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165471).

Magistrate Judge Finds Groups Properly Asserted Privilege Over Documents

PITTSBURGH - A federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania overseeing discovery in a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) lawsuit on Nov. 22 denied a renewed motion to compel filed by a defendant company, finding that it was unable to show that the plaintiff groups waived privilege over documents they withheld under the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine by allegedly sharing them with third parties (PennEnvironment, et al. v. PPG Industries Inc., et al., No. 12-342, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166029).

Pa. Federal Judge Grants Injunctions In 2 Challenges To Birth Control Mandate

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Nov. 21 granted motions for expedited preliminary injunctions in two separate cases brought by Catholic organizations challenging the birth control mandate contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (Most Reverend David A. Zubik, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., No. 13-1459, Most Reverend Lawrence T. Persico, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, et al., No. 13-303, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165922).

Pa. Top Court: Workers' Comp Exclusivity Doesn't Apply In Latent Disease Cases

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The exclusivity provision in Pennsylvania's workers' compensation act does not bar a tort action when the injury arises outside the act's 300-week limit for compensation, the state Supreme Court held Nov. 22 in a 5-1 opinion reinstating two asbestos actions (Kathleen Tooey, et al. v. AK Steel Corp., et al., Spurgeon E. Landis and Mary Landis v. A.W.Chesterton Co., et al., Nos. 21 WAP 2011, 22 WAP 2011, Pa. Sup.).

Judge Declines Dismissal Of Professional Negligence Claim Against Insurance Agents

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal judge on Nov. 20 refused to dismiss insurers' claims for professional negligence and common-law indemnity against insurance agents (Berkley Mid-Atlantic Group LLC, et al. v. G.F. Hoch Company Inc., et al., No. 13-372, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164872).

9th Circuit: Prius Gas Tank Suit Lacking, Competition Law Standing Questionable

SAN FRANCISCO - Two Pennsylvania residents likely lack standing to pursue their California unfair competition law (UCL) action over an automobile manufacturer's choice of gas tank material but also fail to state a claim under the statute, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Nov. 20 (Henry Troup; Veronica Troup v. Toyota Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., No. 11-56637, 9th Cir.).

Bank Of America Awarded Summary Judgment In Private Mortgage Insurance Suit

PHILADELPHIA - A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Nov. 18 dismissed a class action suit accusing Bank of America Corp. of violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) by engaging in a scheme to collect kickbacks and referral fees from private mortgage insurers after finding that the plaintiffs' claims were barred by the statute's one-year limitations period (Thomas J. Riddle, et al. v. Bank of America Corp., et al., No. 12-1740, E.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163526).

Judge Precludes Testimony Of Bad Faith Expert, Citing Jury's Fact-Finding Duty

SCRANTON, Pa. - Noting that a determination of whether an insurer acted in bad faith does not involve "delving into matters that are scientific in nature," a Pennsylvania federal judge on Nov. 15 granted the insurer's motion to preclude testimony of the plaintiff's bad faith expert in a dispute over underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage (Michael Scott v. GEICO General Insurance Co., No. 3:11-cv-01790, M.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162642).

Pennsylvania Federal Judge Declines To Dismiss Call Center Manager's Overtime Suit

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - A health insurance company's motion to dismiss a call center manager's wage-and-hour class complaint was denied Nov. 15 by a Pennsylvania federal judge (Jacqueline Rummel, et al. v. Highmark, Inc., No. 13-87, W.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162757).

Pennsylvania Jury Awards $10M In 2nd Topamax Birth Defect Trial

PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania state court jury on Nov. 18 awarded more than $10 million to a family whose son was born with a cleft palate allegedly caused by his mother's use of the antiepileptic drug Topamax during pregnancy, according to one of the law firms representing the family (Brayden Gurley, et al. v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceutical, Inc., No. 110502251, Pa. Comm. Pls., Philadelphia Co.).

3rd Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Copyright Claims Against Viacom

PHILADELPHIA - Allegations that Viacom Inc. copied a plaintiff's treatment for a reality television show were properly dismissed by a Pennsylvania federal judge, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 14 (Charles L. Sims v. Viacom Inc., No. 13-1567, 3rd Cir.).

Pennsylvania Federal Judge Won't Exclude Experts From Testifying In Patent Case

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A patent dispute will proceed with the testimony of two competing expert witnesses, thanks to two Nov. 13 rulings by a Pennsylvania federal judge (Kimberly Clark Worldwide Inc. v. First Quality Baby Products LLC et al., No. 09-1685, M.D. Pa.).

Bankruptcy Judge Denies Reconsideration Of Pittsburgh Corning Plan Confirmation

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania federal bankruptcy judge on Nov. 12 mostly denied a motion by two insurance companies to reconsider confirmation of Pittsburgh Corning Corp.'s Chapter 11 plan of reorganization, granting the request only to make clear what affiliates of the debtor are protected from asbestos personal injury suits by the plan's channeling injunction (In re: Pittsburgh Corning Corporation, No. 00-22876, W.D. Pa. Bkcy.; 2013 Bankr. LEXIS 4792).

Appeals Panel Finds Umbrella Policy Not Triggered Until Settlement Is Fully Paid

PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel on Nov. 6 partly reversed and partly affirmed a trial court's summary judgment in favor of an umbrella insurer and its duties to defend and indemnify an engineering contractor in an underlying negligence lawsuit, finding that a professional services exclusion did not preclude coverage (Lexington Insurance Co. v. The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Co., et al., No. 2876 EDA 2012, Pa. Super.; 2013 PA Super 286; 2013 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3146).

GSK Seeks Interlocutory Appeal Of Avandia MDL Court's Decision On Union RICO Suits

PHILADELPHIA - GlaxoSmithKline LLC (GSK) on Nov. 11 asked the Pennsylvania federal judge overseeing the Avandia multidistrict Litigation to certify an interlocutory appeal of her order denying dismissal of racketeering and consumer class action claims brought against the company by three union health and welfare funds (In Re: Avandia Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 1871, No. 07-md-1871, E.D. Pa.).