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Opinions

The Middle District of Pennsylvania offers a database of opinions for the years 1999 to present, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Judge John E. Jones III

Appellant Charles J. DeHart, III, Chapter 13 Trustee (“the Trustee”) appeals a July 23, 2010 Opinion (the “Opinion”) issued by the Honorable Mary D. France of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.1 In the Opinion, the Bankruptcy Court held that the undistributed funds held by the Trustee following a conversion of the case to chapter 7 are property of the debtor Barry L. Michael (“Debtor”). Accordingly, the Bankruptcy Court granted Debtor’s motion to compel the Trustee to turn over the undistributed funds. The Trustee filed a timely appeal on September 2, 2010 (Doc. 1). The appeal has been fully briefed by the parties and is therefore ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the Opinion of the Bankruptcy Court.

Presently before the Court are two pending motions to compel arbitration (Docs. 32, 36) and a motion to stay proceedings, including discovery, pending ruling on the motion for summary judgment to compel arbitration. (Doc. 43). For the reasons that follow, the two motions to compel arbitration will be granted and the motion to stay proceedings pending ruling on the motion for summary judgment to compel arbitration will be denied as moot. The Court will order the parties to proceed to appropriate arbitration, and this action will be stayed pending those proceedings.

Pending before the Court are the parties’ cross-Motions for Summary Judgment with Respect to the Chief Defendants’ Counterclaims, filed in November 2010. The Chief Defendants1 move the Court to grant judgment in their favor and equitably extend the terms of the Plaintiffs’ oil-and-gas leases with the Chief Defendants. Essentially, the Chief Defendants argue that Plaintiffs repudiated their leases when they filed the instant declaratory judgment actions to determine whether their leases were valid under Pennsylvania’s Guaranteed Minimum Royalty Act (“GMRA”), 58 P.S. § 33. On October 6, 2010 we issued a Memorandum and Order granting the Defendants’ motions to dismiss and upholding the leases as valid under the GMRA. In doing so, we explicitly relied upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s rationale in Kilmer v. Elexco Land Services, Inc., 63 MAP, 2009, 2010 Pa. LEXIS 517, *30 (Pa. March 24, 2010). The Chief Defendants now request that we equitably extend the leases to account for the period of time during which the Plaintiffs contested the leases in this Court. For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiffs’ Motions for Summary Judgment shall be granted and the Chief Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment shall be denied.

Before the Court are the United States of America’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (Doc. 66) filed on April 28, 2010 and the Plaintiff Brian Tech’s (“Plaintiff” or “Tech”) Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 71) filed on May 18, 2010. After full briefing, the Court held oral argument on the Motions on October 26, 2010. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for our review.

For the reasons that follow, both Motions shall be denied.

This action commenced on November 19, 2009, with the filing of a complaint by several property owners to recover damages allegedly arising from Defendants Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation (“Cabot”) and Gas Search Drilling Services Corporation’s (“Gas Search”) (collectively, “Defendants”) operation of natural gas wells in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. In the controlling Second Amended Complaint, filed on May 17, 2010, Plaintiffs Norma J. Fiorentino, et al. (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) assert the following causes of action: (I) a claim pursuant to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, 35 P.S. §§ 6020.101-6020.1305 (“HSCA”); (II) negligence; (III) private nuisance; (IV) strict liability; (V) breach of contract; (VI) fraudulent misrepresentation; (VII) medical monitoring trust funds; and (VIII) gross negligence. We have diversity jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the amount in controversy with respect to each Plaintiff exceeds $75,000 and is between citizens of separate states. Presently before the Court are Defendants’ Motion to Strike certain allegations contained in the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 26, “Motion to Strike”) and Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, in part (Doc. 28, “Motion to Dismiss”). Both Motions were filed on June 1, 2010 and have been fully briefed. (Docs. 27, 29, 31-34.) We will dispose of both Motions in this Memorandum and Order.

Before the Court in this wrongful death/survival action is Defendants Precision Airmotive LLC, Precision Airmotive Corporation, Burns International Services Corporation, Former Fuel Systems, Inc.,1 and Mark IV Industries, Inc.’s (“Carburetor Defendants”) Motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissal of Plaintiff Jill Sikkelee’s (“Plaintiff”) Complaint. (Doc. 107). For the reasons articulated in this Memorandum, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Motion and grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint.

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

Presently before the court is the report (Doc. 37) of the Honorable William T. Prince, United States Magistrate Judge, recommending that the motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 18) filed by defendants, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) and Allen Biehler, Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, be granted in part, and denied in part. Plaintiff David Behar, M.D. (“Dr. Behar”) has filed objections (Docs. 43-44) to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation (“R&R”). The Pennsylvania Medical Society, the American Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society filed a brief of amici curiae (Doc. 42) in support of Dr. Behar’s objections. For the reasons set forth below, the court will adopt the R&R in its entirety.

On April 20, 2007, plaintiffs David H. Pease, III and Lisa Pease commenced this diversity action against defendant Lycoming Engines Inc. (“Lycoming Engines”) and fourteen other defendants in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. 1, Attachment 1). By Memorandum and Order dated April 19, 2010, the Middle District of Alabama granted plaintiffs’ motion to transfer venue (Doc. 8, Attach. 3, 4) and transferred the action to this court. (Doc. 11, Attach. 2). The instant lawsuit arises out of a June 5, 2005, aviation accident. The pilot, plaintiff David Pease, was seriously injured after his aircraft, a Piper Saratoga, crashed near Tazewall, Tennessee. Plaintiffs claim that the crash occurred after Mr. Pease’s plane “suffered an engine seizure after an apparent oil starvation event at a high altitude . . . .”

Plaintiffs Bonnie Hynoski, Stephen Hynoski, Christine Hynoski, Tom Hynoski, the Borough of Centralia, Harold Mervine (as executor of the estate of Lamar Mervine, Jr. and Lana Mervine), John Koschoff, Helen Hynoski, and Walter Hynoski (collectively, “plaintiffs”) filed the above-captioned case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendants Columbia County Redevelopment Authority, Rosenn Jenkins and Greenwald, LLP, John T. Zelinka, Gary Taroli, Blaschak Coal Corporation, Steven Fishman, the Commonweath of Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and C. Alan Walker.1 Presently before the court is plaintiffs’ motion (Doc. 2) for preliminary injunctive relief. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin any and all defendants, or anyone acting on their behalf, from taking any action in furtherance of certain eminent domain proceedings presently pending in state court. For the following reasons, plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunctive relief will be denied.

Presently before the court is a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), as amended by the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-152, 124 Stat. 1029. It is one of many actions filed across the country challenging the constitutionality of the Act. Plaintiffs, Barbara Goudy-Bachman and Gregory Bachman (“the Bachmans”), allege that § 1501 of the Act (“the individual mandate”), which requires all individuals (subject to certain exclusions), beginning January 1, 2014, to purchase and maintain qualifying healthinsurance, is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Bachmans institute this
action against the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity, the United States Department of the Treasury, and the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Timothy F. Geithner, in his official capacity (collectively “the government”), as those individuals and governmental bodies responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act.
 
The government filed the instant motion to dismiss (Doc. 11) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), (b)(6). The government avers that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the individual mandate, that the challenge is not ripe for adjudication, that plaintiffs are barred from asserting a pre-enforcement challenge against the individual mandate by the Anti-Injunction Act, and that Congress lawfully exercised its Commerce Clause powers. The court will proceed in two parts. In this opinion, the court will address the jurisdictional challenges raised by the government. A separate opinion will issue with respect to the Rule 12(b)(6) challenge.

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