Monday, September 18, 2006

"professional witness" - bias

Cooper v. Schoffstall - Pennsylvania Supreme Court - September 7, 2006

majority -
concurring -

The court held that, under state law, discovery was available to determine if a doctor was a "professional witness" whose pattern of compensation in past cases could raise the "inference of the possibility that the witness has slanted his he could be hired to testify in future cases."

The court said that the "appropriate, threshold showing to establish cause for supplemental discovery related to potential favoritism of a non-party witness retained for trial preparation is of reasonable grounds to believe that the witness may have entered the professional witness category. In other words, the proponent of the discovery should demonstrate a significant pattern of compensation that would support a reasonable inference that the witness might color, shade, or slant his testimony in light of the substantial financial incentives."

If such a showing could be made, the party would be allow to depose the witness by written interrogatories concerning: a) the compensation in the pending case; b) the character of the witnesses' litigation-related activities, and in particular, the approximate percentage devoted to specific types of litigation and/or work on behalf of a particular litigant; c) the number of cases in the past 1-3 years; d) the approximate portion of the witness's overall professional work devoted to litigation-related services; e) the approximate income from such services.

Query: Is this an issue which could be raised in SSD/SSI cases?

admin. law - full hearing - issues

Cambria Co. Home v. DPW - Commonwealth Court - June 5, 2006 (ordered reported 9-14-06)

This case concerns a DPW audit of a county nursing home. During the course of its opinion, the court noted (in n. 12) that under DPW regs and 2 Pa. C.S. secs. 501-508 , a party to an administrative process has the right to a full evidentiary hearing, but only as to those issues which are properly before it and have been adequately raised.

public housing - conditional eviction

Allegheny Co. Housing Authority v. Johnson - Superior Court - September 14, 2006

County Housing Authority filed eviction action against tenant (T) with multiple lease violations (fighting, noise, extra tenants, fire, etc.). The trial court found that although the CHA had established that T had violated the terms of the lease and had engaged in "serious and repeated violations of the material terms of the lease, the CHA could not execute on its judgment for possession so long at the T submitted weekly verification that he was attending an MH/MR program and was attending at least three AA meetings per week.

The Commonwealth Court reversed, finding that T's "behavior unequivocally amounted to 'serious and repeated violations of the material terms of the lease" and holding that the CHA was entitled to evict him, unconditionally and immediately.