Tuesday, February 07, 2006

paternity by estoppel

Gebler v. Gatti - Pennsylvania Superior Court - February 2, 2006


The trial court's finding of paternity by estoppel (PBE) was reversed (2-1). The parties were never married, Defendant-appellant held the child out as his own for 18 months, "under Mother's misrepresentation that he was the only one having sexual relations with Mother at the time of conception." Defendant ceased acting as the child's father when he got a private DNA test and learned that he was not the child's biological father. The appellate court said that the doctrine of PBE is "aimed at achieving fairness" by holding parties to the prior conduct. It held that to apply the doctrine here "would defy principles of equity...." One judge dissented.

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services

consumer protection - pleading - fraud v. misrepresentation - contract under seal - limitations

Christopher v. First Mutual Corp. - ED Pa. - January 20, 2006


pleading - fraudulent v. deceptive conduct
The district court found that under the catchall provision of the state consumer protection law, 73 P.S. sec. 201-2(xxi), which prohibits "fraudulent or deceptive conduct which created a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding," it is "no longer necessary for a plaintiff to plead all of the elements of common law fraud to recover" under that provision, where a plaintiff is claiming deception rather than fraud.

It was noted that "courts have divided on whether a plaintiff must meet the heightened fraud pleading requirement," Skurnowicz v. Lucci, 798 A.2d 788 (Pa. Ssuper. 2002) or a less strict requirement, Flores v. Shapiro & Kreisman, 246 F.Supp.2d 427, 432 (ED Pa. 2002), and that the state supreme court had not yet addressed the issue.

statute of limitations - contract under seal
The court also held that the 20-year statute of limitations applied where the document contained the typed words "In witness whereof, I hereunto set my hand and official seal" and the word "seal" was next to each witness signature, 42 Pa. C.S. sec. 5525(a)(8) (contract under seal).

Donald Marritz, staff attorney
MidPenn Legal Services