Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's consideration was whether individuals who were not named in an executed testamentary document have standing to bring a legal malpractice action against the testator’s attorney, as purported third-party beneficiaries to the contract for legal services between the testator and his attorney. After review, the Court concluded such individuals do not have standing to sue the testator’s attorney for a breach of contract. The Court therefore reversed the Superior Court and remanded for reinstatement of the trial court’s order granting summary judgment and dismissing the claims. View "Est. of Robert Agnew v. Ross" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose out of an attempt to enter a copy of a lost will into probate. Decedent Isabel Wilner died at age 91 in March 2011. Decedent never married. Her intestate heirs were her niece, appellee Dana Wilner and her nephew David Wilner, who was not involved in this litigation. Charles Welles, Esq., a lawyer in Tunkhannock, drafted a will for Decedent, nominating Decedent’s friend Margaret Young as executrix and naming the Decedent's church as the primary beneficiary. Decedent executed the will in June 2007. Attorney Welles made two conformed copies of the will: one copy for his files and gave the other copy was the original will and given to Decedent. Decedent’s live-in caregiver was appellant Linda Baker, a close friend and a cousin by marriage. In April 2010, Attorney Welles prepared two additional documents for Decedent: a codicil which specifically referenced the June 2007 will and changed the executrix from Young to Baker, and a deed transferring ownership of Decedent’s Tunkhannock home to the Pennsylvania church while retaining a life estate. The executed deed was recorded with the county recorder of deeds. As for the codicil, Attorney Welles followed the same procedure as with the will: he made conformed copies, kept one copy for his files, and gave the original and a conformed copy to Decedent. Decedent died on March 16, 2011. Shortly thereafter, Baker went to Decedent’s house to retrieve the will. She discovered that the will had been removed from a downstairs metal box, although other items – including two original codicils and the envelope that had contained the will – were still there. When Baker checked an upstairs safe, she found that all papers had been removed, including a conformed copy of the will. Baker conducted a thorough search of the home but was unable to locate any of the missing items. Without the original will, Baker sought to have Attorney Welles’ conformed copy of the will, together with the original codicils, entered into probate. The court held two evidentiary hearings to determine whether the conformed copy of the will, as produced by Attorney Welles from his files, should have been accepted into probate. During the hearings, the witnesses to the will (members of Attorney Welles' office) testified that they saw Decedent execute the will. However, only one was able to testify to the will’s contents, stating that the terms appearing in the conformed copy accurately reflected the contents of the original will. The Superior Court reversed, concluding that the orphans’ court erred in accepting the conformed copy on the testimony of a single witness. The Supreme Court granted further review to consider the continuing vitality of the two-witness rule and, in particular, whether it properly applied to a will’s contents, as opposed to its execution. Finding that the Superior Court erred in reversing the orphans' court's order, the Supreme Court reinstated the original order. View "In re: Estate of Wilner" on Justia Law

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The decedent resided in Appellants’ long-term skilled nursing care facility between March and August, 2010. Due to the alleged abuse and neglect inflicted upon her throughout her stay, Decedent suffered a multitude of injuries and illnesses that eventually resulted in her death. Appellee filed suit claiming Appellants knowingly sacrificed the quality of care given to their residents. Relevant to this appeal, Appellants filed preliminary objections seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement which Appellee signed, along with general admission paperwork upon Decedent’s admission to the facility. Appellants appealed the Superior Court’s decision affirming, in relevant part, the trial court’s order overruling Appellants’ preliminary objections seeking to compel arbitration and reserving for trial the underlying negligence action filed by Appellee, daughter of the decedent, and executrix of Decedent’s estate. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court and remanded this case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Wert v. Manorcare of Carlisle" on Justia Law