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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 James M. Munley

In August 1992, Luzerne County hired the plaintiff to serve as its Chief Clerk of Assessment. Complaint ¶ 12. During his employment, plaintiff supervised 40-50 employees in the County’s Tax Assessor’s office. See Defendants’ Exhib. 3, p. 22-23. In December 1999, as part of its annual budgeting process, the County finalized the 2000 fiscal year budget. See id. Exhib. 1B. In order to meet the parameters of the budget and the total amount of salaries that were allowed, the county realigned certain departments and eliminated certain positions from the budget, including three (3) full-time positions in the County Assessor’s office. See id. Exhib. 2. After the budget was adopted on December 30, 1999, the plaintiff was notified of the elimination of his position and his termination. See id. Exhib. 3, p. 36.

In January 1999, plaintiff announced his candidacy and sought the democratic nomination for the office of County Commissioner of Luzerne County. Complaint ¶ 14. Plaintiff was unsuccessful in his campaign for County Commissioner. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff claims that he was terminated from his position in retaliation for exercising his constitutional rights. Id. ¶ 21.

On January 18, 1993, WEA Manufacturing, Inc. (“WEA”) hired plaintiff as a full-time Mechanical Designer in its Research and Development (“R&D”) Department. Complaint ¶ 6. Plaintiff was fifty-three years of age at the time he was hired. Id. ¶ 5-6. WEA operates a manufacturing facility that produces various multimedia products, including Compact Discs (“CDs”), information CDs (“CD-ROMs”) and Digital Versatile Discs (“DVDs”). Jeffrey Raider Aff. ¶ 3.

On December 13, 2000, plaintiff was informed that the Machine and Mold Shop (“the Shop”) was going to be eliminated and all part fabrication would be outsourced. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff was also informed that, since his position was part of this department, he would be terminated. Id. ¶ 27. On April 10, 2001, at the age of sixty-one, plaintiff was terminated. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff claims that the functions of his position were still required and were distributed among several other employees who were not as qualified or experienced. Id. ¶ 48. Plaintiff also claims that all of the other younger Shop employees and their supervisor were not terminated. Id. ¶ 6.

In March 2000, plaintiff was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Id. at ¶ 8. As a result, plaintiff has cut back on his work by 50 %. Id. Sometime after plaintiff became ill, he filed a claim with Defendant Equitable. Defendant Disability Management Services (“DMS”), a third party administrator for Equitable, began payment on plaintiff ’s claim in April 2000. Id. at ¶ 10. On April 13, 2001, DMS began payments under a different calculation system, which takes into account his ownership share in the business in calculating his “monthly earnings.” Id. at ¶ 11, Exhibits B and C. In applying this system, DMS has reduced the monthly payments it makes to plaintiff in proportion to losses that the business has been facing . Id. Plaintiff disagrees with the method of benefit calculation and therefore filed the present suit. Id. at ¶ 12.

Defendant LR. Costanzo hired plaintiff on March 11, 1999. Plaintiff contends that she has been exposed to a sexually hostile work environment and has been subject to two forced sexual encounters with Defendant Michalek. In October 2001, plaintiff’s employer requested that she sign an arbitration agreement that would in effect cause her to give up her civil rights and the ability to complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or take the company to court. Plaintiff’s attorney notified the company on October 29, 2001 that she did not want to sign the agreement because of Michalek’s unwelcome sexual attention, unwelcome sexual conduct, sexual assault and because of the hostile work environment. On November 12, 2001, Costanzo placed plaintiff on twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave. Michalek remains in a managerial position and has jurisdiction over everybody in the company. As a result, plaintiff remains fearful of returning to the company. On January 2, 2002, a psychiatrist advised her not to return. A more detailed explanation of the alleged facts is set forth infra where appropriate.

Plaintiff is an insurance company that provided movants with a million dollar professional liability policy, covering June 6, 1999 to June 6, 2000. Movants are certified public accountants who acted as outside auditors for Novick Chemical Co. In November 1999, movants were sued in an underlying state action for professional malpractice by Defendants Novick Chemical Co., Inc., Edward Novick, and Roberta Novick (“Novick Defendants”). Novick Defendants alleged, inter alia, that movants inaccurately recorded their financial statements.

Movants request that the court dismiss the declaratory judgment complaint with prejudice. They further request that plaintiff be fined for failing to participate in discovery according to its obligations. Finally, they reques tthat plaintiff be ordered to pay all appropriate fees of movants associated with preparation of the numerous rescheduled depositions and the present motions. For the reasons that follow, we will grant the motion in part.

Harper alleges that the defendants are denying him medical treatment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, by refusing to admit him to a private medical facility. As a result, he initiated the instant action on July 23, 2003, in which he seeks to permanently enjoin defendants from interfering with and/or preventing an independent medical examination at an outside facility.

Defendant has moved to suppress all of the evidence seized and to suppress his identification by the officers as “tainted.” Defendant argues (1) it was unreasonable for Officer Fry to stop Defendant’s vehicle, (2) the officers’ identification of Defendant as the driver of the vehicle was unnecessarily suggestive and therefore unreliable, (3) the search of Defendant’s vehicle and the seizure of its contents were unlawful and not justified under the inventory or plain view exceptions.

Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner

Presently before the court is a motion by defendant, United Food and Commercial Workers Health and Welfare Fund of Northeastern Pennsylvania (“United Fund”), seeking to dismiss the claims of plaintiff, Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. (“Empire”), for restitution of amounts mistakenly paid to defendant under a contract between Empire and its employees’ union. (Doc. 5). Empire alleges that United Fund, a multiemployer plan established to provide health and welfare benefits to employees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1401, was aware of plaintiff’s error in making the payments and, yet, unjustly retained the additional amounts. (Doc. 1). Defendant argues that dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim is warranted because plaintiff’s claim for restitution is not cognizable under federal common law and plaintiff failed to exhaust mandatory procedures for seeking a refund from United Fund prior to bringing suit. (Doc. 5).

In this case, named plaintiffs, Eddie and Sharon Lester, Gilbert and Madeline Vazquez, Arthur Lucky and Angela Romano-Lucky, and Roy and Yadrisia Lamberty, seek to represent “all persons . . . who purchased a new construction house . . . through the ‘Why-Rent’ program,” operated by named defendants, Gene Percudani (“Percudani”), Chapel Creek Homes, Inc. (“Chapel Homes”), Raintree Homes, Inc. (“Raintree”), Dominick P. Stranieri (“Stranieri”), Chapel Creek Mortgage Banker, Inc. (“Chapel Mortgage”), William Spaner (“Spaner”), and Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. (“Chase”). According to plaintiffs, defendants lured customers into the Why-Rent program by advertisements of rent coverage and low monthly mortgage payments, which later proved unavailable, and enabled them to purchase consistently overpriced homes beyond their economic means by manipulating monthly tax and mortgage estimates and credit materials. Following their purchase, tax reassessments resulted in substantial increases in mortgage payments, often causing defaults and foreclosures. Plaintiffs seek damages on behalf of the proposed class under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c), and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), PA. STAT. ANN. tit. 73, § 201-9.2(a).

Judge Yvette Kane

This action arises out of the events surrounding the investigation and trial of Plaintiff, Steven Crawford, for the 1970 murder of John Eddie Mitchell. In 1974, at the age of fourteen, Plaintiff was charged with the crime. He was found guilty by three different juries in 1974, 1977, and 1978, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Plaintiff was released from prison after twenty-eight years, on July 16, 2002, upon the discovery of exculpatory evidence during the course of Plaintiff’s habeas proceedings.

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