NEW & NOTEWORTHY APPEALS
Appellate Law Group is pleased to announce that in the last few months it has successfully represented clients in three separate appeals to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Khalil v. Williams Cuker Berezofsky, LLC et al., 2549 EDA 2019 (Jan. 5, 2021). In January 2021, Appellate Law Group was successful in obtaining a partial reversal and remand in a legal malpractice action. The action arose out of the defendant lawyers’ representation of our client in an insurance dispute arising out of a flood that damaged the client’s home and personal property.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment for the lawyer and law firm defendants, holding that our client’s claims for breach of contract, legal malpractice, and negligent misrepresentation were barred by the Supreme Court’s holding in Muhammad v. Strassburger, McKenna, Messer, Shilobod & Gutnick, 526 Pa. 541, 587 A.2d 1346 (1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 867 (1991). The trial court also dismissed her fraud claim, holding that the claim was barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel.
Virginia McMichael briefed and argued the appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. She was successful in persuading the Superior Court that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it dismissed the plaintiff’s fraud claim on the grounds of collateral estoppel and res judicata. The Court, however, affirmed the trial court’s holding that the remaining counts were barred by the Muhammad rule.
On February 3, 2021, Appellate Law Group filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal to address the issue of whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should overturn Muhammad, a case that has been criticized in Pennsylvania and elsewhere for unfairly protecting lawyers from attorney malpractice actions when the underlying case is settled.
The Superior Court’s decision was the subject of an article in The Legal Intelligencer: https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2021/01/08/ex-clients-suit-against-williams-cuker-berezofsky-lawyers-revived/.
Hayman v. Hayman, 2453 EDA 2019 (Pa. Super. Oct. 9, 2020). In October 2020, Virginia McMichael obtained a reversal from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania of an order of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas holding our client in contempt of court and dismissing her petition for special relief in a divorce action.
Appellate Law Group was retained after the order was entered in the trial court. After determining that the interlocutory order was appealable as of right under Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 311(a)(8), Virginia McMichael briefed and argued the case to the Superior Court.
Virginia persuaded the Superior Court that the order was not an order for civil contempt, as the trial court had held, but was instead an order for indirect criminal contempt because it was punitive rather than coercive and the underlying action that gave rise to the contempt did not take place in the presence of the court.
Virginia argued that because the contempt order was criminal rather than civil, the trial court erred as a matter of law when it applied the civil law burden of proof rather than the criminal law burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court issued an opinion in which it agreed with our argument. The Court reversed and remanded the matter to the trial court.
P.K. v. S.S., 2020 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 250 (Sept. 9, 2020). Appellate Law Group successfully represented the Appellee in this appeal in an action for an annulment of a marriage on the grounds of fraud. The appeal was from a collateral order requiring the Appellant to produce his mental health records.
Virginia McMichael briefed and argued the case to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which agreed with her that our client was entitled to review Appellant’s mental health records. The Court, however, reversed and remanded to permit the entry of an order allowing the redaction of attorney-client privileged communications.
Commercial Law Appeals
Rosen v. Tesoro Petroleum Corp., 582 A.2d 27 (Pa. Super. 1990). Virginia McMichael represented Tesoro Petroleum Corp., the defendant in this action for malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of process, malicious misuse of criminal proceedings, and conspiracy. The Pennsylvania action arose out of prior litigation between the parties in Texas state court.
Virginia filed a motion for summary judgment in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in which she argued that under Pennsylvania conflict of laws analysis, the trial court was required to apply Texas substantive law to plaintiffs’ claims for malicious prosecution and abuse of process, and that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under Texas law.
The trial court granted summary judgment. Virginia briefed the appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.
Constitutional Law Appeals
Vetrotex Certainteed Corp. v. Consolidated Fiber Glass Products Co., No. 94-2058 (3d Cir. 1996). Virginia McMichael represented a California company that was the defendant in an action for breach of a commercial supply contract. She briefed and argued a motion to dismiss, arguing that United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania lacked specific personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state corporate defendant under the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute.
The district court agreed with Virginia’s jurisdictional argument and dismissed the action. The plaintiff appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision, the Third Circuit agreed with Virginia’s analysis of the jurisdictional issue and affirmed the trial court’s order.
Contract Law Appeals
Khalil v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 1290 EDA 2017 (Pa. Super. 2018). Appellate Law Group represented the Appellant on appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from an order of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granting an insurance company’s motion to enforce a Term Sheet as a final settlement agreement.
Virginia argued that the trial court erred as a matter of law because the Term Sheet required the execution of a final written settlement agreement and the agreement of a third party, neither of which had happened.
The Superior Court adopted Virginia’s argument and held that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it held that the Term Sheet was a full and final settlement agreement. The Court reversed and remanded the case for trial.
Family Law Appeals
H.Z. v. M.B., 1808 EDA 2018 (Pa. Super. 2019). Appellate Law Group was retained to represent the defendant in this paternity action after the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas entered an order holding that our client was the father of the plaintiff’s child. The client and his trial lawyers wanted to take an interlocutory appeal.
Under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1910.15(f), an order establishing paternity is not an appealable order. Virginia McMichael, working closely with trial counsel, was nevertheless successful in convincing the trial court to certify the order as a final order appealable as of right under Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 341(c).
After briefing and oral argument, the Superior Court adopted our argument, reversed the trial court’s order, and remanded the case for additional paternity testing. The case was resolved after subsequent DNA tests established that our client was not the child’s father.
Karakelian v. LaVine, 3470 EDA 2015 (Pa. Super. 2015). Appellate Law Group was retained to represent the mother in the father’s appeal from an order of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas awarding child support.
Virginia McMichael briefed and argued the appeal and was successful in persuading the Superior Court of Pennsylvania to affirm the trial court’s award.
Trusts and Estates Appeals
Commonwealth ex rel. Lang v. Roth (In re Lang), 690 A.2d 256 (Pa. Super. 1997). Virginia McMichael successfully represented the Appellee in a dispute that arose following her son’s transfer of funds from both of his parents shortly before they were adjudicated incapacitated. After a hearing during which the son admitted to having possession of the funds, the Orphans Court Division of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas entered an order holding the son in contempt of court.
On appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the son argued that the Orphans Court lacked jurisdiction to hold him in contempt. The trial court agreed with Virginia’s argument that the Orphans Court had subject matter jurisdiction even though the property was transferred out of the estate before the adjudication of incapacity. The Court affirmed the trial court’s orders holding the son in contempt, and denied the son’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.