Thursday, April 14, 2011

UC- willful misconduct - violation of work rule - no proof of "willful"

McBride v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - april 14, 2011 - unreported memorandum decision




Willful misconduct has been judicially defined as that misconduct which must evidence the wanton and willful disregard of employer's interest, the deliberate violation of rules, the disregard of standards of behavior which an employer can rightfully expect from his employee, or negligence which manifests culpability, wrongful intent, evil design, or intentional substantial disregard for the employer's interest, or the employee's duties and obligations. Frumento v. UCBR, 466 Pa. 81, 351 A.2d 631 (1976). Whether an employee's conduct constituted willful misconduct is a matter of law subject to this Court's review. Miller v. UCBR, 405 A.2d 1034 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1979). The burden of proving willful misconduct rests with the employer. Brant v. UCBR, 477 A.2d 596 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1984).

Where, as is here, a claimant is discharged for violation of a work rule or policy, the employer must establish both the existence of the reasonable work rule and its violation. Brunson v. UCBR, 570 A.2d 1096 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990). Where the employer proves the existence of a rule, the reasonableness of the rule and the fact of its violation, the burden shifts to the claimant to prove that she had good cause for her action. Guthrie v. UCBR, 738 A.2d 518 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999).

An employer “must present evidence indicating that the conduct was of an intentional and deliberate nature” in order to prove willful misconduct. Grieb v. UCBR, 573 Pa. 594, 600, 827 A.2d 422, 426 (2003). The deliberate violation of an employer’s rules or policies is generally considered to be willful misconduct. Navickas v. UCBR, 567 Pa. 298, 304, 787 A.2d 284, 288 (2001). Critically, to be disqualifying, the employee’s violation of a rule must be knowing and deliberate. An inadvertent rule violation is not willful misconduct. BK Foods, Inc. v. UCBR, 547 A.2d 873 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988).

. Employer failed to satisfy its burden of establishing a prima facie case of willful misconduct in light of the facts and totality of the circumstances. Employer did not offer any documents or testimony, during the three valid hearings conducted before the Referee, establishing the existence of a reasonable work policy/rule and a deliberate violation by Claimant of Employer’s rules or policies. The Board found, presumably based on Claimant’s testimony, that Claimant was aware of Employer’s policies and that Claimant violated those policies.


However, Claimant did not testify that she deliberately violated any of Employer’s policies. Claimant maintained throughout this matter, beginning with her appeal letter and ending with her testimony, that she did not commit any of the alleged violations with the deliberate intent of committing willful misconduct. Moreover, Employer offered no evidence to refute Claimant’s assertions.

In making its findings, the Board specifically credited Employer’s testimony that Claimant’s actions were in violation of Employer’s policies. The Board also resolved all conflicts in the testimony in favor of Employer and concluded that Claimant’s behavior rose to the level of willful misconduct.


Again, Employer did not present any testimony regarding Claimant’s actions nor did Employer present any specific testimony or evidence that its policies were reasonable and that Claimant’s actions were a deliberate or intentional violation of Employer’s policies.


Accordingly, we have no choice but to conclude that Employer failed to meet its burden that Claimant deliberately violated its reasonable policies and that the Board’s findings, that purportedly support the Board’s conclusion that Claimant committed willful misconduct, are not supported by substantial evidence.

The Board’s order is reversed.

federal courts - preliminary injunction

Hynoski v. Columbia Co. Redevelopment Authority - MD Pa. - March 11, 2011




The requirements for preliminary injunctive relief are well settled. In order to obtain this extraordinary remedy, the moving party must establish that: (1) there is a reasonable probability of success on the merits, (2) irreparable injury will result without injunctive relief, (3) granting the injunction will avoid a comparably greater hardship than denying it, and (4) the injunction is in the public interest. See Swartzwelder v. McNeilly, 297 F.3d 228, 234 (3d Cir. 2002); BP Chems., Ltd. v. Formosa Chem. & Fibre Corp., 229 F.3d 254, 263 (3d Cir. 2000).


While each factor need not be established beyond doubt, they must combine to show the immediate necessity of injunctive relief. . . . (“[T]he degree of likelihood of success is not determinative. Rather it must be considered and balanced with the comparative injuries of the parties.”). If, however, the moving party fails to show both a reasonable probability of success on the merits and irreparable injury, then the court must deny preliminary injunctive relief. In re Arthur Treacher’s Franchisee Litig., 689 F.2d 1137, 1143 (3d Cir. 1982); Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Chamberlain, 145 F. Supp. 2d 621, 625 (M.D. Pa. 2001).


Reasonable Probability of Success on the Merits -- To establish a reasonable probability of success on the merits, the moving party must produce sufficient evidence to satisfy the essential elements of the underlying cause of action. See Punnett v. Carter, 621 F.2d 578, 582-83 (3d Cir. 1980). This requires examination of the legal principles controlling the claim and potential defenses available to the opposing party. See BP Chems., 229 F.3d at 264. However, the mere possibility that the claim might be defeated does not preclude a finding of probable success if the evidence clearly satisfies the essential prerequisites of the cause of action. Highmark, Inc. v. UPMC Health Plan, Inc., 276 F.3d 160, 173 (3d Cir. 2001)


Irreparable Injury - Irreparable injury is the sine qua non of preliminary injunctive relief. It is harm of such an irreversible character that prospective judgment would be inadequate to make the moving party whole. See Anderson v. Davila, 125 F.3d 148, 163 (3d Cir. 1997); Instant Air Freight Co. v. C.F. Air Freight, Inc., 882 F.2d 797, 801 (3d Cir. 1989); Goadby v. Philadelphia Elec. Co., 639 F.2d 117, 121 (3d Cir. 1981) (“This court has repeatedly emphasized the elementary principle that a preliminary injunction shall not issue except upon a showing of irreparable injury.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). The mere risk of injury is not sufficient to meet this standard. Rather, the moving party must establish that the harm is imminent and probable. Anderson, 125 F.3d at 164; 11A WRIGHT ET AL., supra, § 2948.1. Harm that may be contained effectively only through immediate injunctive relief is properly deemed “irreparable.” Instant Air Freight, 882 F.2d at 801. ).

federal courts - 11th Amendment immunity

Hynoski v. Columbia Co. Redevelopment Authority - MD Pa. - March 11, 2011




Suit v. DCED involving eminent domain in Centralia, Pa., home of the eternal mine fire. One landlowner brought sec. 1983 action based on alleged equal protection violation, claiming improper different treatment of his situation from that of another landowner.


The Eleventh Amendment states: The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.U.S. CONST. amend. XI.


It provides a jurisdictional bar to private federal litigation against a state and its agencies. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1890) (holding that the Eleventh Amendment bars citizens from bringing suit against their own state in federal court); see also Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 72-73 (2000); Lombardo v. Pennsylvania, 540 F.3d 190, 194-95 (3d Cir. 2008). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not a defendant in the matter sub judice; nevertheless, DCED, as an arm of the Commonwealth, is entitled to the protections afforded to the Commonwealth by the Eleventh Amendment. See Chittister v. Dep’t of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., 226 F.3d 223, 226 (3d Cir. 2000) (noting that the parties in that case did not dispute that DCED “is within the protection of the Eleventh Amendment”), abrogated in part on other grounds by Nevada Dep’t of Human Res. v. Hibbs, 538 U.S. 721 (2003); see also Des-Ogugua v. Pa. Dep’t of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., No. 1:06-CV-0721, 2006 WL 2950481, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 16, 2006) (finding that DCED enjoys “Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit”).

Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity is subject to three basic exceptions: (1) Congress may specifically abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity by exercising its enforcement power under the Fourteenth Amendment; or (2) a state may waive its sovereign immunity by consenting to suit; or (3) under Ex Parte Young, a state official may be sued in his/her official capacity for prospective injunctive relief. Coll. Sav. Bank v. Fla. Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 670 (1999); Koslow v. Pennsylvania, 302 F.3d 161, 168 (3d Cir. 2002); Hindes v. FDIC, 137 F.3d 148, 165 (3d Cir. 1998).


Plaintiffs’ § 1983 claims against DCED do not fall under any of these exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity. First, it is well settled that Congress did not intend to abrogate the states’ sovereign immunity by enacting § 1983. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66(1989). Second, Pennsylvania has unequivocally withheld its consent to such suits.See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 8521(b); see also Lombardo, 540 F.3d at 196 n.3; Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981). Third, the Ex Parte Young exception to the Eleventh Amendment’s jurisdictional bar is inapplicable to plaintiffs’ claim against DCED; the exception applies only to officials, not to state agencies. See Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908). The court therefore concludes that DCED enjoys sovereign immunity.5


Steven Fishman [chief counsel at DCED], who is being sued in his official capacity, also argues that he enjoys immunity from plaintiffs’ claims under the Eleventh Amendment; however, he fails to address the doctrine of Ex Parte Young. The Third Circuit has opined that “a state official sued in his official capacity for prospective injunctive relief is a person within section 1983, and the Eleventh Amendment does not bar such a suit.” Hindes v. FDIC, 137 F.3d 148, 165 (3d Cir. 1998). Insofar as plaintiffs seek prospective injunctive relief against Fishman, a state official sued in his official capacity, the court rejects Fishman’s sovereign immunity defense.

federal courts - sec. 1983 - statute of limitations

Hynoski v. Columbia Co. Redevelopment Authority - MD Pa. - March 11, 2011




The statute of limitations for an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 corresponds to the local statute of limitations for tort actions seeking recovery for personal injuries. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 105 S. Ct. 1938, 85 L. Ed. 2d 254 (1985); Reitz v. County of Bucks, 125 F.3d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1997).


Hence, Pennsylvania’s two - year statute of limitations for personal injury actions governs § 1983 claims brought in federal court in Pennsylvania. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 5524; see also Sameric Corp. of Del. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998) (“In actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, federal courts apply the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury.”).


Federal law controls the determination as to when a § 1983 claim accrues. See Montgomery v. De Simone, 159 F.3d 120, 126 (3d Cir. 1998); Genty v. Resolution Trust Corp., 937 F.2d 899, 919 (3d Cir. 1991). Under federal law, “[a] section 1983 cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based.” Sameric, 142 F.3d at 599.


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malpractice - statute of limitations - occurrence rule v. discovery rule

Knopick v. Connelly, et al. - 3d Cir. - April 13, 2011




Discovery rules applied under the facts of the case. Lengthy and detailed analysis of the tolling issue for legal malpractice claim in Pennsylvania, as well as when it is appropriate to apply to discovery rule (when the harm was discovered) v. occurrence (the act that caused the harm).

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