eNotes: Liability – September 2022 – Pennsylvania
September 01, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
PA CASE SUMMARIES
DiDomizio v. Jefferson Pulmonary Assocs.
Pennsylvania Superior Court
No. 1999 EDA 2021, 2022 Pa. Super 126
Decided: August 2, 2022
Discovery rule prevented entry of summary judgment for Defendant based upon the statute of limitations.
Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice case against Defendant for misdiagnosing and delaying her cancer diagnosis for years, limiting her treatment options. Plaintiff had a thirty year history of smoking before she went to the hospital coughing up blood in 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, Plaintiff followed up with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for generally poor health. The hospital’s pulmonary department noted a working diagnosis of sarcoidosis that had not been definitively proven, but did not tell Plaintiff. Plaintiff rejected the request to biopsy due to other complications. In 2013, a CT scan showed an increased mass that was noted as possible for sarcoidosis or cancer, but no definitive diagnosis. A physician noted suspicious metabolic activity in both lungs in 2013, but this information was not relayed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff was diagnosed with lung cancer in summer 2015 and underwent treatment.
Plaintiff was treated in August 2015 and declared in remission. She soon fell ill again in December 2015, and in early 2016 was diagnosed with progression in her lung cancer. Plaintiff’s sarcoidosis precluded the use of immune oncologic agents to treat it. This was Plaintiff’s first knowledge of this diagnosis. Plaintiff continued to seek treatment options, and continued to receive updates on her sarcoidosis. On August 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a writ of summons. In November 2019, the hospital Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations began to run when Plaintiff was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2015 and had therefore expired before Plaintiff initiated the lawsuit. The Trial Court initially denied the Motion, but on a Motion for reconsideration, entered summary judgment in favor of the hospital Defendants. DiDomizio appealed.
The Superior Court reversed the Trial Court and remanded the case. The Court held that there was a lengthy history of attempted contradictory diagnosis and treatment which made the date of accrual for inquiry notice undeterminable as a matter of law. The Superior Court held that due to the lack of clarity on what was told to Plaintiff and when, a jury should decide when Plaintiff discovered an injury that could be redressed by way of a lawsuit. With this question of fact left to be determined, the Superior Court held that the Trial Court erred in granting the Motion for summary judgment.
Questions about this case can be directed to Logan Nagle at (717) 255-7234 or email@example.com.
Alonza Baker Tolo Props., LLC v. Brown
Pennsylvania Superior Court
No. 2248 EDA 2021
Decided: August 1, 2022
Superior Court held that testimony that would be generally inadmissible under Pennsylvania’s Dead Man’s Statute was admissible under the devisavit vel non exception.
Alonza Baker (Baker Jr.), the administrator of the estate of Catherine Baker, filed a Complaint to quiet title to the property located at 1516-18 Marston Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Trial Court held a hearing, at which it heard testimony of Baker Jr.; David Champagne (sole owner of Tolo Properties); Marcder Guerrier (owner of Blessing Real Estate); a representative of the estate of Jessie Brown; and James Kent. Baker Jr., the adult child of Catherine and Alonza Baker Sr. (Baker Sr.), testified regarding the chain of title of the Tolo Properties’ deed. He testified that per the deed executed on May 15, 1980, Catherine Baker, Baker Sr., and Derrick Hart held the property as tenants in common. Baker Sr. died in 1998 and his share went to Catherine Baker. Catherine died on January 4, 2013, and Baker Jr. was granted letters of administration for the estate on January 30. 2013. Derrick Hart died on October 25, 2008, passing his fifty percent share to his lawful heirs. James Kent petitioned for letters of administration of Hart’s estate, but the Orphans’ Court eventually granted letters of administration of Hart’s daughter, Cheree Clark.
On January 11, 2019, Baker Jr. and Cheree Clark met with Champagne and transferred the Estates’ interest in the property to Tolo Properties. The second chain of title began on August 22, 2013, where Jessie Brown, claimed himself to be the sole heir of the estate of Catherine Baker, recorded a deed transferring the property to himself as the sole heir. Baker Jr. testified that Brown was not an heir of Catherine Baker, none of the Baker siblings knew him, and the transfer was not authorized by Baker Jr. On October 28, 2013, a deed transferring title of the Property from Brown to Blessing Real Estate was filed. Although Guerrier of Blessing Real Estate testified that he did not know James Kent, a deed transferring the property from Blessing Real estate to Kent was recorded. Under this purported chain of title, Blessing only had claim to one-half of the property.
On July 1, 2021, the Trial Court found that the January 11, 2019 deed between the estates of Catherine Baker and Derrick Hart to Tolo Properties was valid and binding and, therefore, Tolo Properties owned the property free and clear from any third-party claims. The Trial Court further declared that the following deeds were void and cancelled: (1) the August 13, 2013, deed transferring the property individually to Brown as sole heir of Catherine Baker; (2) the September 19, 2013, deed from Brown to Blessing Real Estate; and (3) the deed from Blessing Real Estate to James Kent. It also enjoined, Jessie Brown, Blessing Real Estate and James Kent from asserting any interest in the property.
Blessing Real Estate appealed, arguing that Tolo Properties did not meet its burden of proof concerning the validity of its deed because the Trial Court erred in failing to exclude the testimony of Baker Jr., James Kent, and Champagne under the Dead Man’s Statute. Blessing Real Estate claimed that pursuant to the Dead Man’s Statute, none of the witnesses could present evidence of Brown’s contention that he was the sole heir of Catherine Baker, because Brown had an actual interest in the result of the suit, the interests of Baker Jr. and Tolo Properties are adverse to Brown’s and Brown’s rights have passed to a party of record who presents his interests. Tolo Properties maintains that the devisavit vel non or real estate of deceased owner exception of the Dead Man’s Act applied to this matter.
The Court affirmed the Trial Court finding that it did not err in permitting the testimony of Baker Jr., James Kent, and Champagne. The Court did, however, disagree with the Trial Court’s finding that the Dead Man’s Statute did not apply. The Court found that the three-prong test of the Dead Man’s Statute was met, but that the devisavit vel non exception applied and, therefore, the testimony was competent. The devisavit vel non exception to the Dead Man’s Statute, provides that witnesses are competent to testify in disputes arising over the passage of property, through will or intestacy, although their testimony might otherwise be rendered incompetent through operation of the general rule. This exception applies to disputes involving the transfer of a decedent’s estate both by operation of law or by will and renders competent all witnesses claiming decedent’s property by reason of his death. Therefore, the Court held that although the testimony would be excluded under the general rule of the Dead Man’s Statute, it fell within the exception and was admissible.
Questions about this case can be directed to Danielle Vols at (570) 825-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.