CIVIL VERDICTS - PREMISES LIABILITY * Estate of Joan DeMarco v. The Marquis - Decedent business tenant of apartment/office complex owner murdered by former employee of defendant in violent assault during office burglary. Plaintiff's estate alleged negligent security theory of liability against defendant. Settlement negotiated with responsible insurance company in excess of One Million Two Hundred Thousand ($1,200,000.00) Dollars prior to trial. * Khaled Bakar v. Home Properties, Inc. - Plaintiff was standing on third floor balcony of friend's apartment owned by defendant, when the floor suddenly collapsed causing plaintiff to fall to ground. Plaintiff sustained fractured ribs, non-displaced tibia fracture and herniated disc, which was treated with physical therapy and multiple epidural injections. Montgomery County jury returned a verdict in the amount of Seven Hundred and Sixty Nine Thousand ($769,000.00) Dollars. Plaintiff filed Motion for Delay Damages which was granted and case was settled for Nine Hundred Thousand ($900,000.00) Dollars. * CIVIL VERDICTS - AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS * Riccardo v. Kim - Plaintiff sustained fractured cervical vertebrae at C5-6 level which required two surgeries and metal screws, arising from a two vehicle automobile accident. Out-of-court settlement negotiated with responsible insurance carriers in amount of Four Hundred Thousand ($400,000.00) Dollars prior to trial. * Estate of Robert Kane v. Joseph Falco - Decedent killed while passenger in one-car accident where intoxicated driver lost control of vehicle. Wrongful death claim settlement negotiated with responsible insurance company in the amount of Six Hundred and Sixty Thousand ($660,000.00) Dollars prior to trial. * Vinnie Moss v. Baldi Transportation/Erie Insurance Company - Plaintiff awarded Two Hundred Thirty Five Thousand ($235,000.00) Dollars by jury after trial. Defendant trucking company bankrupt and uninsured. Uninsured motorist claim settlement negotiated with plaintiff's insurance company in the amount of Two Hundred Thousand ($200,00.00) Dollars. * CIVIL VERDICTS - LIQUOR LIABILITY * Gerald & Irene Kane v. Dublin Wine and Spirits and Commonwealth of PA - Plaintiff husband and wife sustained multiple injuries in head-on collision with drunk driver. Husband-plaintiff sustained head injury resulting in brain hemorrhage and coma, with substantial recovery. Wife-plaintiff sustained broken ankle. Out-of-court settlement successfully negotiated against defendants prior to trial. Husband's claim - Two Hundred Forty Thousand ($240,000.00) Dollars. Wife's claim - Ninety Thousand ($90,000.00) Dollars. (Bucks County)* Edward Pisarek v. Adriatric Club - Plaintiff police officer assaulted while on duty by intoxicated bar patron skilled in martial arts. Plaintiff sustained permanent partial hearing loss and multiple lacerations. Non-jury trial verdict in favor of plaintiff and against defendant in amount of One Hundred Fifty Thousand ($150,000.00) Dollars. (Philadelphia County) CIVIL VERDICTS - PRODUCT LIABILITY* Keith Rosenberger v. Galoob Toys, Inc. - Plaintiff sustained temporary partial loss of vision in one eye with increased risk of future glaucoma, when struck in eye by defendants' children's toy, while plaintiff demonstrated newly purchased toy for child. Out-of-court settlement successfully negotiated against defendants in the amount of One Hundred Fifty Thousand ($150,000.00) Dollars prior to trial. (Montgomery County)* Raymond Cost v. Caterpillar, Inc. - Plaintiff sustained partial amputation of his lower leg, when his foot was crushed in an unguarded pinchpoint of rotating couplings inside engine area, while plaintiff was performing maintenance of defendant's heavy trash compactor/metal shearer. Out-of-court settlement successfully negotiated against defendant in the amount of Four Hundred Seventy Five Thousand ($475,000.00) Dollars prior to trial. (Montgomery County)

Post Adoption Contact Agreement
By: Erin C. Lentz-McMahon, Esquire

On October 27, 2011, Governor Edward Rendell signed Senate Bill 1360, Act 101 of 2010, which amends Pennsylvania’s Adoption laws to allow adopting parents and birth relatives to enter into an agreement for continuing contact or communication that became effective on April 27, 2011. This contact or communication can include: letters, cards, emails, photographs, telephone calls, text messages, social media connections, and supervised or unsupervised visitation. The boundaries of the contact or communication are to be written in an agreement that is referred to as a “Post Adoption Contact Agreement” (PACA). This is also commonly referred to as an “Open Adoption” meaning that the birth relatives will still be allowed to maintain a relationship with a child who is being adopted. Prior to this amendment, some adopting parents and birth relatives maintained a connection but this law allows for a legally enforceable agreement to be monitored by the Court.

Who can be a party to a PACA
Adopting parents and birth relative can voluntarily agree to enter into a written PACA, and a minor child who is age twelve or older, must also provide consent. Biological parents are not the only relatives entitled to enter into such an Agreement. The amendments allow for all “birth relatives” to enter into a PACA who are defined as a “parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt of the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption.” In addition, “prospective adoptive parents” may be parties to the Agreement, even though the adoption may not be finalized. Accordingly, a PACA can be entered into by the parties prior to the termination of parental rights, and a final adoption.

Notice of the Right to PACA
It is important that notice of the right to enter into a PACA is given to individuals who are either losing their parental rights or becoming adoptive parents. In addition, notice must be given to a child “who can be reasonably expected to understand.” Of course, the exact age, maturity, or intelligence of a child “who can be reasonably expected to understand” varies on a case-by-case basis. However, there is no requirement that all birth relatives must be provided with such notice. This means that a grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt of the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption may not be given notice about the possibility of a PACA, even though these birth relatives can be parties to such an agreement.

Court Approval Required – Determining Best Interests of the Child
The Court must approve the PACA, after determining that it is in the best interests of the child. The factors used to determine whether such an agreement is in the best interest of the child, include:

The length of time that the child has been under the actual care, custody, and control of a person other than a birth parent and the circumstance relating thereto.
The interaction and interrelationship of the child with birth relatives and other persons who routinely interact with the birth relatives and may significantly affect the child’s best interests.
The adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community.
The willingness and ability of the birth relative to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and prospective adoptive parent.
The willingness and ability of the prospective adoptive parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and birth relative.

The Court may require an evidentiary hearing to ensure that the PACA is in the best interests of the child, or a Motion with the appropriate documentation may suffice. In addition, the parties to a PACA must submit notarized affidavits that affirm that the Agreement is voluntary and not the produce of fraud, duress or coercion.

Enforceability/Modification/Duration of the Agreement
Any party to the PACA can seek enforcement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. The only legal remedy that may be sought by an enforcement action is specific performance. However, only an adoptive parent or child who is twelve years of age or older may seek to modify the PACA. A birth relative cannot seek to modify the PACA. If a Petition to Modify the PACA is filed, then a Court must find that such modification serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child by clear and convincing evidence. A PACA terminates on the date the child reaches eighteen years of age, unless provided for otherwise by the Agreement or Court.

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