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At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this matter was whether sales or use taxes must be paid in relation to two distinct items: the purchase of a closed-circuit horse-racing simulcasting system, and the payment of royalties for intellectual property used in conjunction with the operation of video poker machines. For the Taxpayer's off-track wagering locations, it used video poker machines. Taxpayer entered into a service contract with Teleview Racing Patrol, Inc., pursuant to which Teleview supplied equipment such as screens, satellite dishes, and closed-circuit television feeds. These items were used to provide live displays at each OTW facility of races occurring at Pocono Downs and other tracks across the country. Teleview provided the equipment for this system and, per the agreement, it also supplied personnel to install, maintain, and operate that equipment. In relation to the video poker games, Taxpayer purchased machines from International Gaming Technologies, PLC (“IGT”), on which it paid taxes which are not in dispute. In accordance with a separate intellectual property agreement, Taxpayer also paid IGT royalty fees for intellectual property associated with the various different “themes,” i.e., different poker games that would run on the machines. After a Pennsylvania Department of Revenue audit, Taxpayer was assessed approximately $340,000 in unpaid sales and use taxes, mostly stemming from Taxpayer’s payments to Teleview under the service contract. In challenging the assessment, Taxpayer concluded it had erroneously paid the $13,000 in taxes on its payment of royalty fees to IGT; thus, it sought a refund of those monies. After the Department denied relief, Taxpayer sought review of both matters in the Commonwealth Court, which consolidated the appeals. The court found Teleview consolidated taxable and nontaxable charges on its invoices. The panel thus concluded that Taxpayer had failed to present documentary evidence specifying which portions of the billed amounts were nontaxable, as required by departmental regulations. The Court also rejected Taxpayer's request for a refund on taxes it paid for IGT's royalty fees. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court's order insofar as it upheld the Board of Finance and Revenue's determination relative to the IGT contract, but affirmed in all other respects. View "Downs Racing, LP v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In this capital appeal, both Appellant Lavar Brown and the Commonwealth challenged the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County's order dismissing Brown’s petition for relief filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act. The the parties requested the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order that Brown’s death sentence be vacated, that his case be remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County for the limited purpose of resentencing Brown to life without parole, and that the case then be transferred to the Superior Court for merits disposition of Brown's guilt phase claims. The Supreme Court reviewed the PCRA court record and determined Brown was not entitled to relief, and the PCRA court correctly denied Brown's petition. View "Pennsylvania v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Appellees were suburban common carriers which, pursuant to certificates of public convenience, were authorized to provide hail or call taxicab services, known in the industry as “call or demand services,” in the Commonwealth. Appellees were also authorized to provide call or demand services in limited portions of the City, while being prohibited from providing call or demand service to the City’s business or tourist districts, Philadelphia International Airport, 30th Street Station, or City casinos. Taxicabs which were authorized to provide call or demand service throughout the City were known as “medallion taxicabs,” while appellees operated what were known as “partial rights taxicabs.” Prior to 2004, PUC was responsible for regulating all taxicab service in the Commonwealth. Medallion taxicabs were regulated pursuant to the Medallion Act, and all other taxicabs, including those operated by appellees, were regulated pursuant to the Public Utility Code and PUC regulations. Appellants, the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), appealed a Commonwealth Court order invalidating a jurisdictional agreement between PPA and PUC and concluding certain PPA regulations were invalid and unenforceable as to partial rights taxicabs operating in the City of Philadelphia (City). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order in part (with regard to amended Count IV of the Amended Petition for Review), and affirm it in part (with regard to Counts V-VIII). The Court found the Commonwealth Court erred in concluding the Jurisdictional Agreement violated appellees’ substantive due process rights. The purpose of the Jurisdictional Agreement was to clarify whether PPA, PUC, or both agencies would regulate a trip which is subject to dual jurisdiction, and the Agreement simply states that where dual jurisdiction exists PUC cedes jurisdiction to PPA. The Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court in all other respects. View "Bucks Co. Svc., et al. v. PPA" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to address two issues associated with workers’ compensation claims by firefighters suffering from cancer. First, the Court had to determine the evidentiary requirements for a claimant to demonstrate that he or she has an “occupational disease,” as that term is defined in Section 108(r) of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”). Second, the Court had to decide whether epidemiological evidence may be used by an employer to rebut the evidentiary presumption that the claimant’s cancer is compensable as set forth in Section 301(f) of the Act. With respect to the first issue, the Supreme Court concluded that pursuant to Section 108(r), the claimant has an initial burden to establish that his or her cancer is a type of cancer that is capable of being caused by exposure to a known IARC Group 1 carcinogen. With respect to the second, the Court concluded that epidemiological evidence was not sufficient to rebut the evidentiary presumption under Section 301(f). View "City of Phila. FD v. WCAB; Appeal of: Sladek, S." on Justia Law

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Sometime in 2001, Nancy Nicolaou was bitten by a tick on her left ankle, after which she developed a rash and experienced numbness and tingling in her left toe, fatigue, and lower back pain. This appeal presented the issue of whether Appellants Nancy and Nicholas Nicolaou satisfied the discovery rule so as to toll the running of the statute of limitations on their medical malpractice action filed against Appellee health care providers for failing to diagnose and treat Mrs. Nicolaou’s Lyme disease. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees, deeming appellants’ action time-barred. The Superior Court affirmed, holding that the discovery rule did not toll the statute of limitations because, as a matter of law, appellants failed to establish that they pursued their action with reasonable diligence. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held summary judgment was granted improperly because the determination of whether appellants acted with due diligence under the circumstances presented was one of fact for a jury to decide. View "Nicolaou v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to address the scope of consent given by a motorist to law enforcement for the search of his vehicle. After review of the circumstances of this case, the Court concluded that the consent given by Appellant Randy Valdivia to Pennsylvania State Police Troopers Jeremy Hoy and David Long to search his van did not extend to a canine search occurring approximately forty minutes later. "A reasonable person in Valdivia’s position would not have understood that he was consenting to such a search." The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Superior Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Valdivia" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to resolve inconsistencies between the Superior Court’s decisions in Commonwealth v. Kemp, 961 A.2d 1247 (Pa. Super. 2008) and Commonwealth v. Nguyen, 116 A.3d 657 (Pa. Super. 2015), specifically with regard to whether information obtained by a police officer during a lawful initial traffic stop may be used to justify re-engagement with the driver after the police officer indicates the driver is free to go, such that consent to search given during that re-engagement is valid. The Supreme Court concluded, under the circumstances of this case, the consent given was valid and suppression of evidence was not warranted. View "In the Int. of: A.A." on Justia Law

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In 1999, Appellant Leo Dolan, Jr. and Cherie Dolan entered into an agreement of sale with Bentley Homes, Ltd., Garvin Mitchell Corporation, Chadwell Associates, L.P., Chadwell Realty, Inc. and Harrison Community Association (hereinafter “Bentley”) for a new custom house. Hurd Millwork Company, Inc. (Hurd) provided many of the windows used in the construction of Appellant’s home. Within a year, the house developed substantial defects, including air and water leaks around the windows. Hurd filed an action against Bentley for unpaid invoices related to the construction of Appellant’s home and other homes in the same development. Bentley filed a counterclaim against Hurd for providing defective windows. In October 2002, Bentley and Hurd entered into a settlement containing admissions that numerous homes in the development suffered from extensive defects and leaks. During the pendency of the litigation between Hurd and Bentley, Appellant experienced additional problems with his home including severe leaks, rotted wood and issues with a stucco wall. Bentley made some repairs to the home, but the leaks continued to worsen. Appellant hired a civil engineer to assess the home and determine what repairs were required to fix the problems with the house. The repairs and associated costs amounted to $826,695.99. The house was purchased for $1,941,669.00. In this appeal by permission, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review was the proper role of an appellate court when reviewing a non-jury decision where it deems the trial court’s opinion pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925(a) inadequate, but the trial judge is no longer available to provide a supplemental opinion. The Supreme Court concluded that where a Rule 1925(a) opinion is deemed inadequate and the trial judge is unavailable to provide a supplemental opinion, the appellate court should review the legal issues raised in the appellant’s Rule 1925(b) statement of errors complained of on appeal. When deciding issues of law an appellate court is not required to defer to the conclusions of a trial court. Applying this standard and scope, the Superior Court will be able to review the entire record and ultimately determine whether the trial court correctly decided the legal issues raised in Bentley’s appeal. View "Dolan v. Hurd Millwork Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to determine whether appellee Joshua Lukach, who was subject to a custodial interrogation, clearly and unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent in accordance with the rule articulated in Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010) and, if so, whether physical evidence collected as a result of his subsequent confession was properly suppressed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded appellee unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent and was then impermissibly induced into abandoning that right, rendering his confession coerced and involuntary. As such, both his confession and the physical evidence collected as a result of that confession were properly suppressed. View "Pennsylvania v. Lukach" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General (OAG), on behalf of the Commonwealth, filed suit against more than two dozen nursing homes and their parent companies (collectively, “Appellees”), alleging violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, (“UTPCPL”), and unjust enrichment. After consideration of Appellees’ preliminary objections, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the claims and this appealed followed. After its review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the dismissal of the UTPCPL claims was improper, but the dismissal of the unjust enrichment claim was proper because the claim was filed prematurely. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Commonwealth, AG Shapiro v. GGNSC LLC, et al" on Justia Law