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)

Child Custody Laws
By: Erin C. Lentz-McMahon, Esquire

On November 24, 2010, the Pennsylvania legislature signed into law House Bill 1639, which became effective on January 24, 2011. This legislation deleted the former Child Custody laws that were contained within Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Sections 5301 through 5315, and replaced it with Sections 5321 through 5340. The new Child Custody laws take into account prior decisions of the Courts, and offer further clarity and guidance in several important respects.

Legal Definitions of Custody
The legal definitions have expanded and there is no “joint custody” or “visitation.” If an Order refers to “joint custody” or “visitation” then it will be considered as either partial physical custody, shared physical custody, or supervised physical custody.

The law now defines what is considered “physical custody,” “partial physical custody,” and “primary physical custody.” Physical custody is actual physical possession and control of a child, which can be granted as “primary” (majority of the time) “partial” (less than a majority of the time), “shared” (each party has significant periods of time), or “supervised” (custodial time that is monitored). There is no presumption that either parent shall be awarded custody. However, parents are entitled to a presumption when a third party is seeking custody.

Grandparents and great-grandparents
Grandparents have a time limitation placed on when they may file for custody when a child resided with them for a period of twelve consecutive months. In that case, grand-parents must file within six months after the removal of the child from their home.

Planning for Custody Decisions
One of the most significant changes is that parties who reside in the same household can file for custody, even though the order will not be effective until there are separate households. Parties may be required to submit a “Parenting Plan” to aid in resolving custody disputes. A Parenting Plan form is contained within the new laws, which cannot be used as evidence, if the matter proceeds to a trial.

Statutory Factors
Courts are required to consider sixteen factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child, which include:


  • Which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
  • Present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
  • Parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
  • Need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
  • Availability of extended family.
  • Child’s sibling relationships.
  • Well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
  • Attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs of the child.
  • Proximity of the residence of the parties.
  • Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate childcare arrangements.
  • Level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence or unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household. Mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
  • Any other relevant factor.

Courts are also now required to state their reasons on the record for their decisions. Parties or persons residing with parties that have a criminal conviction will be evaluated by the Court to determine if they pose a threat to a child, and whether counseling is necessary.

Guardians may be appointed to represent the best interests of a child, and counsel can also be appointed to represent the legal interests of a child, and counsel can also be appointed to represent the legal interests of a child. Finally, should a party wish to relocate to an area which will significantly impair the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights, specific procedures must be followed, including written notice requirements.

Montgomery County Women’s Journal 33 April/May 2011