Friday, September 28, 2007

Protection from Abuse - family/household members - siblings - business partners

Custer v. Cochran - Superior Court - September 25, 2007

Siblings who do not live together and whose only relationship is a business one come within the plain words of the definition of "family or household members," 23 Pa. C.S. 6102, since they are clearly related by consanguinity or affinity, overruling Olivieri v. Olivieri, 678 A.2d 393 (Pa. Super. 1996), to the extent that it limited application of the PFA Act to people who live in the same household.

The court also held that there was adequate proof of abuse and noted the ages, height and weight of the parties, and that plaintiff -- whose testimony the court found credible -- experienced fear and pain in her arm for several days as a result of defendant's actions.

Judge Ford Elliot concurred reluctantly, noting that the "clear legislative purpose and objective of the Act is frustrated by applying its protection to a dispute between business partners concerning purely business matters." The judge noted that the legislature's removal of the same-household requirement "simply enlarged the group of victims who have standing to seek relief under the Act so long as the abuse they suffer is the result of an intimate, sexual, or familial relationship they share or have shared with the abuser." The current litigants have no relationship that exists in any "domestic sphere." Nonetheless, the judge concurred, finding the majority view "legally sustainable."