Thursday, March 02, 2006

real estate - sales - disclosure - adjacent group home

Colaizzi v. Beck - Superior Court - March 1, 2006

Held, it was not a violation of the consumer protection law, 73 P.S. 201-1 et seq., or common law fraud for a seller of real property to fail to disclose to buyer that the adjacent property was the site of a group home for mentally-challenged adults.

Sellers signed a disclosure form under the Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law, 68 Pa. C.S. 7301 et seq., which said that he were not aware of "any condition that would affect the use and/or enjoyment of the property or the fair market value and/or title of the property." The appellate court reject that buyer argument that the lower court erred by focusing solely on the subject property rather than considering adjacent properties. The court said that there was no authority for such a reading of the law. "Moreover, even if we were persuaded by Appellant's argument, we find that the existence of a group home for mentally-challenged adults on the adjacent property does not constitution a 'legal issue'" under the RESDL.

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services

child witness - Tender Years Hearsay Act - psych. exam

Commonwealth v. Shearer - Superior Court - March 1, 2006

Superior Court reversed the trial court's order that a child-victim be examined by a private psychologist retained by alleged abuser prior to a competency determination by trial court under the Tender Years Hearsay Act, 42 Pa. C.S. 5985.1.

The appellate court said that it was "beyond doubt that a court-ordered psychiatric examination intrudes into an important aspect of human privacy concerns….While trial courts must regularly make competency rulings, a court-ordered psychological examination should never be the starting point for such a determination…..Such an examination should not be ordered unless the record demonstrates the existence of a 'compelling reason' for the examination….The fact that a witness is an alleged child victim of sexual abuse does not, in and of itself, negate the requirement of demonstrating the necessity for court-ordered psychological examination."

The court agreed with the Commonwealth that there was no evidence showing that the child witness "suffers from any mental condition that would require a psychiatric examination before a competency hearing can be conducted."

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services