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October 2019 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Nov 01, 2019 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 9 precedential opinions (linked below) and 4 orders granting allocatur.

On the opinion side, it is a good month to be a plaintiff's medical malpractice attorney, as the Court's decision in Yanakos has opened up a whole new population of potential clients by declaring that the MCARE Act's 7-year statute of repose violates the Pennsylvania constitutional right to open courts/legal remedies. Remarkably, the Court's rationale focused in part on the fact that although the provision was designed to ensure more predictable medical malpractice liability for actuaries, there was no evidence in the legislative record that it would do so. To the extent the Court is now willing to require the General Assembly to authentically make policy decisions, Yanakos could be the beginning of a new constitutional framework and the end of myriad enactments brought about by legislative industry-capture. Yet, one imagines that legislators previously disposed to assist the medical and other industries without evidence already have appointments with lobbyists eager to provide it.

On the allocatur side, the standout order is Chesapeake Energy, in which the Court will consider whether the Commonwealth can maintain an action pursuant to the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”) against energy companies employing unfair or deceptive practices in the leasing and acquisition of mineral rights, and whether it may pursue antitrust remedies therein. The Commonwealth Court, for its part, held that it may maintain such an action, but that it may only pursue such remedies to the degree they related to unfair or deceptive trade practices. It is difficult to predict where the Court will fall. It is something of a jurisprudential stretch to classify the leasing and acquisition of mineral rights as a consumer transaction, but the Commonwealth Court's opinion reads quite persuasively, relying in part on precedent holding that the provision of residential housing is a consumer transaction, and, frankly, the energy industry has not fared well before the Court even prior to its more recent, more liberal incarnation.

Precedential Opinions

Allocatur Grants

  • Commonwealth v. Chesapeake Energy Corp., et al. 225-226 MAL 2019 (granting review of whether the Commonwealth may maintain public actions pursuant to the UTPCPL against energy companies employing unfair or deceptive actions in the leasing and acquisition of mineral rights and whether it may pursue antitrust remedies therein)

  • Commonwealth v. Ballentine, 379 MAL 2019 (granting review of whether a sentence of restitution in favor of a non-profit entity is valid despite being entered prior to an amendment to the Sentencing Code providing for such sentences)

  • In the Interest of D.R., et al., 296-299 WAL 2019 (granting review of whether the Superior Court improperly vacated an order directing parents involved in a child-dependency action to provide a urine sample for drug testing)

  • McMichael v. McMichael, 147-148 WAL 2019 (granting review of whether a jury in a wrongful death action may find liability but award zero damages)

About the Author

Corrie Woods

Corrie is our primary litigator, and focuses his practice on appellate, criminal, and post-conviction cases. Corrie also authors the firm's blog, SCOPABlog, which is the only regularly updated blog providing comprehensive coverage of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania's docket. Corrie became an a...


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