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)

By: Erin C. Lentz-McMahon, Esquire

You read in the news that celebrities file for an annulment after a night of drinking in Las Vegas like Britney Spears, or after a brief marital relationship such as Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney.

What is the difference between an annulment and divorce in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? An annulment means that the marriage never lawfully took place, and that the parties could not enter into a marital union because of a legal impediment. A divorce means that the parties were lawfully married, but that the bonds of matrimony are broken based on a fault or no-fault ground.

If you are unsure if you are entitled to an annulment or a divorce, you should consult with me about your situation by calling our office at (800) 859-6262, or by completing an online inquiry form at

The differences between the two There are significant distinctions to seeking an annulment of the marriage as opposed to filing for divorce. Divorce: A person filing for divorce can seek a division of marital assets and debts, support, counsel fees, costs and expenses from their spouse. It will most likely be more time consuming and costly to litigate a divorce.

In addition, a person who is lawfully married is entitled to receive an inheritance in the event that their spouse passes away prior to establishing a ground for the divorce, and there is no will stating otherwise. A Court may also compel a spouse to maintain health insurance coverage and life insurance designations during the pendency of a divorce action.

The reason that a person seeking a divorce can request all of these different types of relief is that the Commonwealth recognizes marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman, and provides certain legal rights with this marital status. Whereas, the Commonwealth declares certain types of relationships as unlawful, and simply will afford a finding that the marriage is annulled.

Annulment: Annulment may be granted by the Court based on any one of nine legal impediments to the marriage that can be classified into two types: void and voidable.

A marriage is void if it is entered into by a party who is (1) married at the time of the marriage, (2) closely related to their spouse, (3) suffers from a serious mental disorder, or (4) under the age of eighteen for purposes of a common-law marriage that occurred before January 1, 2005. These types of marriages are considered against the public policy of the Commonwealth and are prohibited by law. In some cases, a person can be criminally prosecuted for entering into a marriage that is considered void. This would be for the crimes of bigamy and incest. However, if one of these impediments to the marriage is removed, and the parties continue to live together as husband and wife, then the Court will not grant the annulment.

A marriage is voidable if either party is (1) under the age of sixteen and lacks court approval, (2) at the age of sixteen or seventeen and lacks consent from a parent, guardian, or the Court, and sixty days have not elapsed from the date of the marriage ceremony, (3) under the influence of alcohol or drugs and sixty days have not elapsed from the date of the marriage ceremony, (4) naturally and incurably impotent, unless known by their spouse prior to the marriage, or (5) induced into marriage by fraud, duress, coercion, or force by their spouse, and did not continue to live together as husband and wife after released from the effects of the fraud, duress, coercion, or force.

The key distinction between a void and voidable marriage is that a void marriage is unlawful from the start of the relationship. A voidable marriage will be considered valid unless either spouse seeks an annulment. The spouse seeking an annulment of a voidable marriage must do so prior to his or her spouse passing away, and cannot live as husband and wife after the impediment is removed. In addition, only a spouse can challenge a voidable marriage; whereas a third party can challenge a void marriage.

Fault vs. no-fault A divorce can be sought only by a spouse and can be based on fault or no-fault grounds. Some of the fault grounds for divorce may also provide a basis for an annulment, such as when a person commits bigamy or suffers from a serious mental disorder. However, only a spouse who is innocent and injured can file for divorce based on a fault ground, unlike an annulment when either spouse can file regardless of fault. Annulment vs. Divorce Erin C. Lentz-McMahon, Esquire, is a partner at the law firm of McMahon, McMahon & Lentz, whose offices in Montgomery County are in Norristown and Jenkintown.

To reach Erin, call 610.272.9502.