On January 8, 2021, Walsh Pancio attorneys were once again proud to participate in the Montgomery Bar Association‘s (“MBA”) Annual Business Luncheon, which was held virtually for the first time. The firm congratulates Immediate Past President Patrick Kurtas on a tremendous year in charge of the MBA. The firm also congratulates newly installed President Jacqueline Reynolds on her position, and looks forward to a terrific year under President Reynolds’ direction.
Continuing the firm’s dedication to and strong relationship with the MBA, Walsh Pancio attorneys are privileged and honored to serve in multiple leadership capacities and on several committees and sections within the organization:
– The Honorable Joseph P Walsh, past President of the MBA’s Trial Lawyers’ Section, has been re-named as co-chair of the MBA’s influential Government Relations Committee, and will again serve on the MBA’s Pro Bono Committee and Government Relations Committee.
– Past MBA President Bruce Pancio will serve as Vice Chair of the Council of Past Presidents, and has also been re-named to the Nominating Committee, Bench Bar Committee and Managing Partners Committee. He will also continue serving on the MBA’s important Judiciary Committee.
– Past Young Lawyers’ Section chair Mike Lyon will continue his second year of a three-year term on as a Director on the MBA’s Board of Directors. He was also -appointed as a member of the MBA’s Executive Committee, Law Reporter Committee, and Fee Dispute Committee.
– Chelsea Dearden was selected for the MBA’s prestigious Leadership Academy. She was also re-appointed to the Steering Committee of the MBA’s Women in the Law Committee and will serve as a liaison within the Young Lawyers Section.
– Jason Edwards will join Chelsea as a member of this year’s Leadership Academy. He will also serve again on the MBA’s Solo and Small Firm and Criminal Defense Committees, and as a liaison within the Young Lawyers’ Section.
The firm’s attorneys also will remain active members of the MBA’s Trial Lawyers’ Section.
The firm is grateful for these opportunities to serve the MBA. and looks forward to a terrific year.
In a unique matter involving a claim in Bucks County, Walsh Pancio attorney Mike Lyon obtained a defense verdict following a compulsory arbitration.
The Plaintiff alleged a trip and fall on his own property that he blamed on tree roots from our clients’ property, which was adjacent to the Plaintiff’s own land. The Plaintiff alleged that our clients’ failure to treat the trees and roots led to overgrowth and encroachment on to his property, and he claimed that he tripped over that overgrowth and sustained serious lower body injuries as a result.
During discovery and arbitration, Mike was able to demonstrate that the clients had not acted negligently in maintaining their own property, and thus were not responsible for the Plaintiff’s injuries. An arbitration panel in Bucks County unanimously agreed and found in favor of our clients. The Plaintiff chose not to pursue an appeal of that decision, which is now final.
Walsh Pancio attorney Mike Lyon was recently appointed as a Judge Pro Tempore (JPT) for the Dispute Resolution Center of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Philadelphia, PA).
As a JPT, Mike will conduct pre-trial settlement conferences in an effort to assist parties in reaching amicable resolutions to cases prior to trial or further court proceedings. Mike’s appointment as a JPT continues and enhances the firm’s well-established Arbitration and Mediation practice.
In addition to Mike, Walsh Pancio attorneys Joseph P Walsh and Bruce Pancio are frequently called on by plaintiffs, defendants, commercial entities, individuals, families, estates, and their attorneys to assist in resolving disputes of many different types. The firm continues to utilized enhanced videoconferencing technologies to conduct alternative dispute resolutions remotely.
To schedule an arbitration or mediation, or other dispute resolution proceeding, contact any of our attorneys or the office.
On October 7, 2020, Walsh Pancio LLC was honored to participate in the Pennsylvania Bar Association Minority Bar Committee’s annual diversity summit. For the first time, the PBA/MBC partnered with the Montgomery Bar Association (MBA) to deliver a virtual day of programming dedicated to collaborative and innovative methods of promoting diversity within the profession of law and in society as a whole. The Honorable Joseph P Walsh was privileged to be a panelist in the session during the Summit entitled “Tough Talks and Crucial Action,” a series of three, candid, TED-style talks exploring the responsibilities and challenges associated with advancing diversity, equity and inclusion from a variety of perspectives. Judge Walsh, alongside his wife, Nancy O’Connor Walsh of tbdNOW, LLC, spoke of their individual and shared experiences as diversity allies both through the MBA and in their community. The panel was very well-received and appreciated by a number of attendees. Several firm attorneys also assisted as small group facilitators after Joe and Nancy’s panel. We will update this page if pictures, video, or links from the Summit become available for further viewing. Walsh Pancio congratulates the PBA/MBC and MBA on an interesting, important, and insightful programming and thanks all for the privilege of participating!
We are very pleased to have achieved a tremendous result for our clients in their ongoing lawsuit against Montgomery County Commissioner Joseph C. Gale in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Following months of litigation and settlement negotiations, Commissioner Gale agreed to immediately cease blocking individuals from following his social media accounts, and further agreed to immediately cease deleting comments that he solely finds unfavorable made to those accounts.
The agreement, signed by all parties, was approved in an order signed by the Honorable Timothy J. Savage of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The order is nothing less than a thorough victory for our courageous clients, who achieved each of their desired outcomes in this litigation and ensured that their Constitutional rights–and those of Commissioner Gale’s constituents and followers everywhere–will be honored.
Walsh Pancio is proud to stand with our clients to have protected the First Amendment. Walsh Pancio is privileged to have worked with Mudrick & Zucker, P.C. in Blue Bell and the Philip Press Law Office in Norristown in the prosecution of this case.
See article from Pottstown Mercury for more.
On June 29, 2020, on behalf of seven (7) individual constituents and one (1) local business, Walsh Pancio along with the firms Mudrick & Zucker, and Philip Press Law Office filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale over blocking social media posts.
While there have been similar suits in other jurisdictions in recent years against President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for blocking people on Twitter from seeing their accounts, this is the first case of its kind in Pennsylvania.
The suit requests injunctive relief requiring Commissioner Gale to unblock Plaintiffs and restore access to each his public social media accounts; to immediately cease deleting, excising, or disposing of comments or content uploaded to his public social media accounts; and an Order declaring that his conduct in blocking social media posts violates the First Amended to the United States Constitution and/or Article I Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction filed June 29, 2020 is waiting for a hearing to be scheduled by Federal Judge Timothy Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“If Commissioner Gale chooses to engage in speech on his various social media platforms, all of which are so intertwined with his persona as a public actor, he cannot then supplant the voice of those who wish to post a contrary viewpoint, nor can he deny others the opportunity to experience the full panoply of ideas in this digital public square,” Attorney Joseph P. Walsh said. “He cannot censor the Vox Populi.”
“Commissioner Gale has the right under the First Amendment to say whatever he wishes to say, no matter how abhorrent the viewpoint might be,” Attorney Michael J. Lyon added. “Our clients simply request that he extend them the same right that they are entitled to under the First Amendment as well.”
Any inquires, please contact Attorney Michael J. Lyon of Walsh Pancio, LLC.
[disclaimer – the information in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.]
As the calendar turns to May, we naturally start thinking about summer vacations. For many here in greater Philadelphia and beyond, as it has for decades, that means a trip (or more) to the Jersey Shore.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has left lots of those plans uncertain. Tenants are worried about whether it’s even safe to stay in a rental for some time, and some others may not want to go at all. Conversely, landlords may be wondering whether it’s safe to rent their properties, or whether they might be exposed to liability for doing so if one or more of their tenants is infected with COVID-19.
Those questions are complicated. Given how suddenly and quickly the virus arrived and spread, there is no direct law governing what a landlord must do for its tenants as to COVID-19. No law directly governs a tenant’s rights following the pandemic either. But a quick examination of existing laws provides excellent guidance to both landlords and tenants.
DISCLOSURE OF COVID-19 AT THE RENTAL PROPERTY
Of particular importance to the landlord’s responsibilities during and after COVID-19 situation is New Jersey’s landlord disclosure requirement. Landlords in New Jersey must make several disclosures to tenants prior to renting a property, including the presence of lead paint and asbestos hazards, floods, and structural damage. New Jersey also makes it incumbent upon landlords to disclose any latent defects affecting the “habitability” of the premises.
None of New Jersey’s disclosure requirements explicitly require a landlord to disclose information about diseases, or COVID-19 in particular, to prospective tenants. However, given the confusion and worry that the pandemic has caused, an argument could be made that the presence of COVID-19 at the rental property affects the “habitability” of the residence, given that the virus would likely detract a significant number of people from wanting to rent it.
As such, if a landlord knows, or has reason to know, that the property has been rented by, housed, or hosted one or more individuals who have been infected by COVID-19 or exposed to it, they should strongly consider disclosing this to tenants. This includes tenants who have previously signed leases for the summer season, as well as prospective renters who may be considering one or more open terms. The landlord should advise the tenants when the infected person or persons inhabited the property, how long they were there for, and any steps the landlord took to disinfect the property after the infected or exposed person(s) vacated it. Disclosure of this information would alleviate any potential liability flowing from a tenant’s subsequent contraction of COVID-19 while staying at a landlord’s property.
Similarly, tenants who have signed leases for the 2020 summer season, or prospective tenants, will likely want to inquire of their landlords whether the property has been exposed to COVID-19. Whether the lease can be cancelled based upon the presence of COVID-19 would depend on the language of each individual lease, and further negotiations between landlord and tenant. It may be necessary to consult with a lawyer to assist in interpreting the lease and negotiating a particular resolution.
Landlords should also review their existing insurance levels and policies applicable to their renters. They should consider and whether those policies would respond to a claim by a tenant of COVID-19 infection during or after the rental term.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING THE PROPERTY
New Jersey law does not mandate that a short-term rental property owner take specific steps to clean the property in between tenancies. Nor does New Jersey require a landlord to guarantee a virus and bacteria-free living space at the beginning of a tenancy. That said, many shore properties are rented for the summer on a week-to-week basis, with the beginning of each rental week starting in the afternoon (often around 1-2:00 pm) on a Saturday and ending on the following Saturday in the morning (perhaps 10:00 am). Between rental terms, landlords often use cleaning services to clean the units and make sure they are in acceptable condition for the new tenants who will arrive in the afternoon.
This may have sufficed in previous years. However, tenants in shore properties this summer will understandably expect that steps be taken to thoroughly disinfect the properties in light of the COVID-19 situation. And, property owners in New Jersey are generally required to act as reasonably prudent landowners would act under the same or similar circumstances. As the circumstances change, what a reasonably prudent person would do likely changes as well.
COVID-19 certainly represents a change in circumstances that must be considered by landlords. To ensure that they are taking action in accordance with the “reasonably prudent” standard, owners should review their procedures to clean and de-sanitize their units to ensure that thorough cleaning measures between tenancies are being undertaken. Indeed, it may be that precautions previously taken to clean and prepare the rental unit would be considered unreasonable during the summer of 2020. Perhaps more cleaning steps or services are necessary, or that different products must be used, in order to give renters assurances that reasonable and proper steps have been taken to prevent COVID-19 exposure.
Similarly, tenants concerned about the presence of COVID-19 in their rental units should inquire about the steps being taken to disinfect the property before the tenancy begins. Landlords who want to ensure that their rentals go smoothly would be wise to listen to tenant concerns and be prepared to respond to them. A simple addendum to a lease agreement is quite helpful to document any additional measures requested by the tenant and agreed to by the landlord.
WILL I EVEN BE ABLE TO GO?
Tenants should also be aware that many municipalities have enacted temporary bans of short-term rentals to prevent further spread of COVID-19. At least two such towns—Seaside Heights and Asbury Park—previously extended their bans on rentals through June 1, and many others have advised that the bans may be in effect indefinitely (although others have signaled that short-term rentals will commence soon). Other shore points with boardwalks previously ordered them closed, and advised that they may not re-open until after Memorial Day, or later. A ban on a short-term rental may make it impracticable or impossible to rent the property. Tenants should consult their leases to determine whether a provision has been included, often called a force majeure clause, that would provide a refund in the event that they cannot inhabit the property through no fault of their own.
Each individual municipality in New Jersey may also have their own rules for rental properties that landlords must abide by. These may include additional disclosures that landlords must make, or rules that tenants need to abide by. Consultation with an attorney as to these rules may be helpful.
The hope is that the Jersey Shore will be open for relaxation, recreation, and business during the summer of 2020. But the pandemic should cause landlords and tenants alike to consider new aspects of their rentals that they may not have previously thought of.
Attorney Michael Lyon has reviewed lease agreements and landlord-tenant situations, and can assist in reviewing a lease, or potentially negotiating an addendum or compromise to it. Contact Mike for a free initial consultation.
Attorney Mike Lyon obtained a complete defense verdict on behalf of the firm’s client, a cardiologist who had been involved in a severe automobile accident on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Montgomery County.
Our client had been involved a two-car accident in which he accidentally lost control of his vehicle due to weather conditions and the roadway, and crashed into a concrete barrier on the side of the highway. Although he was able to move his car to the side, he was unable to move it completely off the road as there was no shoulder available due to construction activity. While sitting in the car and awaiting emergency help, the client was struck in the front end by an oncoming vehicle that had hydroplaned and could not be stopped. The driver of that vehicle brought a lawsuit against our client for negligence.
During a two-day trial, Mike established during the trial that the accident was not the result of carelessness or negligence on behalf of our client, and cross examined the plaintiff and his expert in arguing that the accident was the plaintiff’s fault. Following twenty minutes of deliberation, the jury of five women and seven men returned a unanimous verdict in favor of our client, finding that he had not acted negligently.
Walsh Pancio attorneys are proud to be active and involved members of the Montgomery Bar Association, the pre-eminent association of attorneys in Montgomery County. Continuing the firm’s proud tradition, we are thrilled to announce that our attorneys have been elected and appointed to a number of positions within the MBA for 2020:
– The Honorable Joseph P Walsh, a former President of the MBA’s Trial Lawyers’ Section, has been re-appointed as the Chair of the MBA’s Pro Bono Committee and as Co-Chair of the Government Relations Committee.
– Bruce Pancio, past President of the MBA and former chair of the Nominating Committee, has been re-appointed to the MBA’s prestigious Judiciary Committee, Bench Bar Committee, and will serve on its Council of Past Presidents.
– Mike Lyon completed his term as Young Lawyers’ Section Chair and was elected to a three year term on the MBA’s Board of Directors. He was also appointed as an officer of the Law Reporter Committee and was selected as a member of the MBA’s initial Leadership Academy 2.0 edition.
– Chelsea Dearden was re-appointed to the Steering Committee of the MBA’s active and growing Women in the Law Committee, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in 2020. She was also named the Young Lawyers’ Section liaison to the MBA’s Diversity Committee.
– Jason Edwards was named the Young Lawyers’ Section liaison to the Membership Committee. He was also appointed to the MBA’s award winning Solo/Small Practice Committee, Criminal Defense Committee, and Rules of Civil Court Committee.
All Walsh Pancio attorneys will also continue to be active members of the MBA’s Trial Lawyers’ Section.
The firm is thankful for the opportunity for its attorneys to take active roles within the MBA and looks forward to a great year!
Consistent with the firm’s dedication to its community and proud history of service, Walsh Pancio was proud to assist the Young Lawyers’ Section of the Montgomery Bar Association in their winter food drive to benefit Manna on Main Street in Lansdale. Together with a number of firms, professionals, individuals, and other organizations, our attorneys and staff pitched in to make a substantial donation of non-perishable food, toiletries, and essential items. This in turn will benefit Manna’s outreach to hundreds of in-need individuals and families in the North Penn area, where Walsh Pancio is also proud to call home.
Attorneys Mike Lyon and Jason Edwards were honored to assist YLS Community Outreach Director and firm friend Tim Knowles in delivering the full allotment of items for donation to Manna on December 20, 2019.
by: Mike Lyon
In December of 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles lost a pivotal home game to the hated Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 38-27. That was on the field.
What happened off the field–but in the stadium–that night was perhaps more important for event hosts, social gathering places, and entertainment arenas throughout Pennsylvania. A single altercation among fans that evening has now resulted in a huge victory for the Eagles in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, one that could have long lasting ramifications for property owners and hosts of small and large events.
On the night of the game, Patrick Pearson, a longtime Cowboys fan, was in attendance wearing a vintage Cowboys jersey. He was with a friend during the game, and the two men went to the bathroom at halftime. When they got there, a handful of Eagles fans began taunting Pearson. In response, Pearson told the fans to “get a ring and we’ll talk” (referring to the fact that the Eagles had not yet won a Super Bowl, while his beloved Cowboys had won five). Eventually, a person walked up to Pearson and threw his Cowboys hat into a urinal. Pearson claimed that this sparked a large confrontation in which several individuals began to assault Pearson by holding him down, twisting his leg, and choking him.
When someone then called “security,” the alleged assailants ran off. Security personnel—who were employees of an outside company called “Apex” that had been hired by the Eagles—arrived to find Pearson on his feet and supported by a friend and another individual. Pearson’s ankle was badly injured; his foot was turned at a 90-degree angle. Pearson subsequently underwent two surgeries, had two rods and ten pins inserted into his right leg, and was in a cast for ninety days.
Pearson sued the Eagles and Apex, alleging that they were negligent in their deployment of security at Lincoln Financial Field, which he claimed caused him to suffer injury. The parties tried the case to a Philadelphia jury in May of 2018, which returned a verdict holding the Eagles 50% responsible for Pearson’s injuries, Apex 30% responsible, and Pearson himself 20% responsible. The jury awarded total damages of $700,000—apportioning the percentage responsibility led to a net award to Pearson of $350,000 against the Eagles, and $210,000 against Apex.
The Eagles appealed to the Superior Court, while Pearson and Apex eventually settled their dispute on undisclosed terms. The chief argument the Eagles made on appeal was that the Eagles did not owe a duty to Pearson to protect him against an assault in a Lincoln Financial Field bathroom. Specifically, the Eagles asserted that Pearson’s theory of negligence was that it was unreasonable for the Eagles not to have had a security presence inside the restroom, because the Eagles knew or should have known that violent altercations could have taken place there.
The Superior Court first undertook a comprehensive analysis of the law explaining the duty of social hosts to protect their guests from the acts of a third party. The Court noted the general rule is that a host is not liable “for the criminal conduct of another absent a pre-existing duty,” although there is a well-known exception to that rule when the host “assumes a duty…and so negligently performs that duty that another suffers damage.” See Pearson v. Philadelpia Eagles, LLC, et al., 2019 PA Super 304, ___ A.3d___, at 9 (Pa. 2019) (citing Feld v. Merriam, 485 A.2d 742, 745 (Pa. 1984) (internal citation omitted)). However, the Court also noted that the law does not place a duty on a host to protect against such criminal conduct unless “the [host] has reason to anticipate such conduct.” See Reason v. Kathryn’s Korner Thrift Shop, 169 A.3d 96, 102 (Pa. Super. 2017) (further citation omitted).
Here, the Eagles did not dispute that they undertook a duty to protect their guests from fighting during games, nor did they dispute that they engaged Apex to provide security to accomplish that goal. However, the Eagles emphasized that no evidence was introduced during trial to suggest that the security program in place was inadequate or operated in a negligent manner. In fact, the only argument presented by Pearson was that the Eagles were negligent solely because they failed to have security stationed in their restrooms, and the Eagles argued that there was no evidence that they had any reason to anticipate violent conduct in its restrooms.
The Superior Court agreed with the Eagles. After reviewing the trial transcript, it concluded that the record “in no manner support[ed] the assertion that there was a history of violent assaults that occurred in the restroom. To the contrary, the record shows that incidents of violent assaults or fighting in the restrooms were a rare occurrence.” See Pearson, 2019 PA Super at 18. The court also found that the Eagles’ choice not to place security in the restrooms was justified, as the evidence demonstrated that the Eagles perceived a stronger likelihood of violent encounters in other areas of the stadium and chose to deploy enhanced security in those areas.
Pearson had separately argued that it had taken Apex personnel several minutes to arrive at the bathroom, asserting that this was evidence demonstrating that the Eagles had negligently operated the security program. The court disagreed, holding that the record lacked any evidence that Pearson’s injuries would have been avoided had the security personnel been more prompt. The court also rejected Pearson’s argument that his decision to wear opposing team apparel should have prompted increased security presence. Evidence revealed that the Eagles recognized that potential danger and had programs in place to combat it, including having certain security personnel wear opposing team attire and patrol the stadium in an undercover capacity to identify individuals who posed a threat to opposing team fans.
The Superior Court ultimately concluded that Pearson failed to present any evidence that the Eagles “were on notice that violent assaults regularly took place in the stadium’s restrooms or that [the Eagles] conducted their security program without reasonable care.”
The decision is a monumental win for social hosts and property owners in Pennsylvania. It is not enough, under Pearson, for an injured party to show that security personnel were not deployed in the specific location, or that they were late arriving. Rather, that person must show direct evidence that the host or owner undertook a duty to protect them from such an act, and that the host or owner knew, or had reason to know, that such an act could occur in the specific location of the incident. The decision would appear applicable not only to large scale event hosts such as sports teams, arenas, or concert venues, but also to smaller venues such as bars, restaurants, or cafes. When deciding to deploy a security presence, Pearson instructs that owners and hosts should consider the particular areas of their places of business that are likely to foster criminal or violent conduct and deploy security in those areas. As long as there is a reasonable basis for using security in certain areas and not deploying security in certain other areas, the owner or host is far less likely to face civil liability.
On September 26, 2019, Mike Lyon served as a panelist for a new presentation to the Leadership Academy of the Montgomery Bar Association on the interesting issue of serving on the board of directors of a non-profit or charitable organization. Mike’s presentation continues a long history of service to the community that is central to the identity of Walsh Pancio and continues to inspire the firm.
Mike is a proud member of the Board of Directors at Manna on Main Street, a food distribution and hunger eradication organization in Lansdale, PA and also serves as a Director for the MBA. He shared his experiences as a director with both organizations and related tips for work-life balance, practice management, and best practices for attorneys serving on nonprofit boards. Mike served on the panel with a distinguished list of presenters, including David Zellers, the Director of Commerce for Montgomery County, PA, Kate Q. Williams, Esq., Associate General Counsel for the Merakey Foundation and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Scattergood Foundation, and Chinwe Onyekere, MPH, System Director for Health Equity and Designated Institutional Official at Main Line Health and a board member or chair at several organizations.
In March of 2019, Mike Lyon was privileged to be appointed as a Zone 9 Delegate to the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA). The House of Delegates is the PBA’s primary policy-making body, and controls and adopts the PBA’s official position on a wide range of issues affecting the law, statute, and legal issues throughout Pennsylvania. Only a limited number of attorneys are appointed from Montgomery County each year as delegates. Mike joins Bruce Pancio as firm representatives from Montgomery County, continuing the firm’s proud tradition of remaining active in bar associations and professional organization.
Mike Lyon obtained a defense verdict following a jury trial in Montgomery County involving a severe automobile accident in Montgomery Township, PA. The Plaintiff in the case alleged severe and permanent injuries following an accident in which her vehicle was struck from the side by Mike’s client. Mike used Plaintiff’s own medical evidence and admissions during discovery to effectively cross examine the plaintiff during trial, and argued that her injuries did not amount to a serious injury. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mike’s client and found that no serious injury requiring compensation had occurred. The court entered judgment on the verdict, and Mike continues to litigate the matter through post-trial motions.
At the annual business meeting of Montgomery Bar Association (MBA) on January 11, 2019, Mike Lyon was elected as the Chair of the MBA’s Young Lawyers’ Section and will serve in that role for 2019. The Young Lawyers’ Section is comprised of any MBA member under the age of 35 years old, as well as any member who has been in practice for less than five years. As Chair of the Section, Mike will coordinate the Sections’ activities throughout the year and will promote the involvement of younger lawyers in professional, networking, and business development activities within the MBA. He will also represent the Section on the MBA’s Board of Directors for 2019.