Tuesday, October 11, 2005

abuse - credibility - police report/medical treatment not required to establish credibility

Karch v. Karch - Pa. Superior Court - October 11, 2005


Appellate court upheld trial court's grant of a PFA order.

1. medical treatment not required -- PFA plaintiff need not seek medical treatment for her injury. Neither the PFA act nor case law requires that there be medical evidence or that the plaintiff seek medical treatment in order for plaintiff's testimony to be found credible.

2. Police involvement not necessary. It is well-settled that neither the PFA Act not case law requires that a police report be filed in order to obtain a PFA order. "We wish to make it abundantly clear that this Court will not infer that the failure of the police to act on a report of domestic violence means that the victim is not credible, and we will not place the onus on the victim to force police departments to comply with sec. 6105 [responsibilities of law enforcement agencies] as a prerequisite for obtaining a PFA."

3. The correct burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence.

4. The evidence was sufficient to grant a PFA order. Wife had prior 30-day PFA order a few months earlier, based on husband's having put his hands around his neck and threatened to snap it.. The newest abuse consisted of his holding his hand in the shape of a gun, touching his wife's head with enough force to cause pain, and telling her "there is your future." Wife also testified that the day after the this incident, one of her car tires had a puncture wound and was flat. The evidence also showed that husband previously had guns in the house and that they had been removed over his "strenuous objections." The court said that "this evidence was more than sufficient to sustain the grant of a PFA."

5. standard of review -- When a claim is presented that the evidence was not sufficient to support a PFA order, the court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the petitioner and grants her the benefit of all reasonable inferences. The court defers to the credibility determinations of the trial court as to witnesses who appeared before it.