By Ernest J. Bernabei III and Thomas M. Bona.
Court: Philadelphia Common Pleas Court
Judge: Susan I. Schulman
Case Type: Slip and Fall/Construction
Caption: Hillary Jay v. Tony DePaul & Son
Index No.: 1906-07026
Decision Date: October 1, 2020
Decision: Defense Verdict
Like everyone else, the courts today have adapted to the restrictions required by the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, trials scheduled in upstate New York have jurors processing virtually to avoid as much contact as possible. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has announced plans to resume Jury trials in New York City and elsewhere within the state. Other courts have used virtual trials with a judge instead of a jury. Of course, as is always the case, both parties must consent to a non-jury trial. We are proud to report on PMT’s first virtual trial for NY, NJ, and PA.
Ernest Bernabei obtained a defense verdict on October 1, 2020, in the first virtual trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court handled by the firm. An available judge sends a trial order with a date and requests that the parties send status letters confirming their availability, settlement status, and other information. Proposed trial exhibits must be exchanged with opposing counsel, and pre-marked copies of the exhibits sent to the Judge by email five days before trial. There is an email created explicitly for the virtual courtroom, and the parties receive a zoom invitation. They log-in 15 minutes before the trial starts. Parties and interested clients can log in and participate/observe.
The case was a one-day bench trial involving a woman who sustained a fractured foot when striking a construction sign located on a sidewalk. In representing our client, a construction company, Mr. Bernabei emphasized to the court the plaintiff’s failure to establish a duty of care regarding sign placement. He pointed out the signage was placed based upon specs and engineering standards, and there was no evidence of any deviation from construction safety practice.
Cross-examination of the plaintiff, in addition to establishing a lack of liability evidence, also reflected the conflict between her perception of her damages and the actual notations in her medical records. In closing, Mr. Bernabei first focused on the limited damages, making it clear that the Judge never needed to consider them. He then laid out the specific points plaintiff needed to prove and argued the lack of evidence as to each element.
Should you have any questions, please call our office at (914) 703-6300 or contact:
Ernest J. Bernabei III, Partner
Peter M. Dunne, Partner
Jeffrey T. Miller, Executive Partner