Can a NON-DRIVING Text Sender be Liable for Text Recipient’s Car Accident?

It seems to stretch previously conceived limits of legal liability, but a recent case out of Lawrence County, PA, suggests that even if you’re not the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, you can possibly be civilly liable for that accident when you send a text message and the recipient of your text reads and responds while driving. Notably, you don’t even have to be in the car which is involved in the accident!

The case, Gallatin v. Gargiulo, is noted for allowing claims of negligence and wrongful-death to proceed against two individuals who were texting a driver who was involved in an eventual fatal accident. It should be emphasized that the Court did not determine that these individuals are liable or that there is a cause of action for such activity, only that the Court has allowed the claims against them to proceed for a later determination.

You are likely wondering, as was I on first read, “How can this be?” How can a person who sends a text message from his couch in Philadelphia possibly be liable for an accident which occurs on I-76? Well, it’s not that cut-and-dry in terms of establishing liability on the part of the text sender. To potentially be deemed legally responsible, a text sender must know or have reason to know at the time of the accident that the person they are texting is driving and will view the text.

Is this an easy burden to satisfy? Absolutely not! It does, however, demonstrate just how far the law is potentially willing to go to combat texting-and-driving in Pennsylvania. It’s also another pocket which could be available to a victim of a texting-while-driving accident.

PRACTICAL: It’s entirely too early to know the legal ramifications of the case referenced above. However, if the Court ultimately recognizes a cause of action against those who send text messages to a driver involved in an accident, that holding would certainly alter the legal landscape of civil motor vehicle lawsuits.

If you’ve been named in a lawsuit in which your only alleged misconduct was sending a text message to a third party, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are ready and able to defend you today. Call for a free consultation at (215)-947-6240, or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

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Mr. Robert G. Hess, A Perfectly Good Man

Some good Philadelphia lawyers can never be replicated. Attorney Robert G Hess, a perfectly good man, died Thursday April 21, 2016, a few days short of 94 years old, leaving no mold for making another like him. Now the hundreds of people he touched will sorely miss him.

After a stint as a staff sergeant in the Signal Corps in World War II’s European Theatre, Mr. Hess, a graduate of Ursinus College, attended University of Pennsylvania Law School. There,Robert G. Hess he became a lawyer for all the right reasons – to help people, to solve problems, and to settle disputes. And he became successful at all three. The first in his family to become an attorney, Mr. Hess passed the Bar in 1948 and began working under Thomas Howland and Roger Melling, partners of a law firm in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. But after working in every type of law under the sun, he was drawn to the preparation of wills, settling estates, and helping clients to set up trusts.  He felt that in these areas he helped clients, particularly older ones, deal with important life issues. In his own words, “What I enjoy most is representing older people who at this point in their lives need guidance, and it’s not only legal guidance. It’s where to live, how to live. Sometimes you feel like a minister or a priest.”

Mr. Hess was well respected for his service within the legal and lay communities. He was a past chairman and member of the board of directors of Aria Health (formerly Frankford Hospitals) and the board of directors of the Aria Health Foundation (formerly Frankford Hospital Foundation and the Wesley Enhanced Foundation (formerly Evangelical Manor Foundation). He was instrumental in their growth. He was counsel to several retirement facilities and in his customary style, continually offered his services to those around him, especially in his own retirement community, for free. He was a member and past president of the Frankford Lions Club, Jerusalem Lodge F & AM, the Scottish Rite and Lulu Temple. He was also the recipient of the Frankford High School’s prestigious Alumni Pioneer Award for his accomplishments and contributions to the community. When he won, he quoted from Russell Conwell’s book, Acres of Diamonds. “It is said that you can find all of the wealth and riches you need in your own backyard. I pointed out that my [first] office was two blocks from the high school.”

By the way, Mr. Hess’s devotion to community service was carried into his final year. When he found out that apartment-bound people in his retirement building weren’t always getting their morning newspapers, as documented in his last short story, “The Paperboy,” he took it upon himself to sort and deliver 40-some newspapers every morning with the help of his walker.

One of Mr. Hess’s differentiators was his wife of almost 70 years, Alberta. She would continually accompany him on his many legal missions, whether it was serving divorce papers or to clients’ homes to witness the signing of their wills. Until last year, he was still working a few mornings a week, and she was still travelling with him. People familiar with the couple, knew them as nearly inseparable, sharing a fondness for Disney World, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The only time Mr. Hess could be found apart from his wife was on the golf course and in the kitchen, where he exercised his talent as a culinary expert, preparing her dinner.

Robert G. Hess, Esq. died April 21, 2016 of heart failure in Attleboro Village, Langhorne, PA. He was the devoted ‘Best Friend and Husband’ for 69 years to Alberta M. (nee Davis) Hess and the perfect father of Dr. Robert G. Jr., RN (Evi Eskin, MD), Bruce D. ESQ. (Jennifer), Mark D. (Judy), and Susan L. Hess.  He had nine grandchildren, two of whom predeceased him, including Jonathan M and Robert Hess, 3rd who died while serving in the US Coast Guard, and 5 Great-grandchildren.

Family, friends, and all organizations of which he was a member are invited to call Thursday, April 28 after 9:30AM and to participate in His Funeral Service at 11 AM at the Langhorne United Methodist Church, 301 E. Maple Avenue, Langhorne, Pa. 19047.  He will be interned at Sunset Memorial Park, Feasterville, PA.  In lieu of flowers, a donation in his memory to the Langhorne United Methodist Church (Roof Fund) at the above address would be very much appreciated by his family.

– Dr. Robert G. Hess, Jr.

The Neighbors and Their Tree

We all have had or continue to have that ONE neighbor. That ONE neighbor who takes little or no pride in the appearance of his or her property. He or she allows trees and shrubbery to grow beyond his property lines, and you now have branches or overgrowth spilling into your yard. As a responsible property owner who has been the victim of this scenario, what is your recourse? That is the subject of today’s blog posting.

If tree limbs, shrubbery, etc., is rooted in your neighbor’s property, it is your neighbor’s responsibility to keep it trimmed and maintained within the confines of his or her property line. When a tree branch spreads beyond one neighbor’s property into the yard of another in Pennsylvania, this is considered trespass.  In fact, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has held that overhanging branches and trees which intrude neighboring property lines is considered a “continuing” trespass. Jones v. Wagner, 425 Pa. Super. 102 (1993).

As a landowner, you may use self-help to remove encroaching tree limbs. However, you can only do so to the extent that the limbs are actually coming across your property line and you may not trespass on the neighbor’s property to take such measures. Your right is to trim back the overgrowth to the extent of encroachment. It should also be noted that there is no requirement your property is harmed prior to taking such corrective measures.

As a practical manner, you are not entitled to and should not cut back tree limbs in a reckless manner. Therefore, if you don’t know how to do it properly, you should seek the assistance of a professional. If you go the route of self-help and incur expenses in doing so such as that described in the last sentence, you may file suit to recoup those expenses from your neighbor.

You may also seek what is called equitable relief, meaning a court order compelling your neighbor to remove trees to the extent of encroachment and seeking appropriate incidental and consequential damages.

It should be emphasized that the law is not always clear in these situations. Therefore, a first step should always be approaching the neighbor and asking them if they’ll remove the limbs themselves. If not, the next question is whether they are OK with you cutting them or hiring someone to do the cutting? Regardless the outcome of this conversation, document this conversation with your neighbor in a letter mailed to his or her attention and keep a copy for yourself.

If your neighbor refuses to take any corrective action and objects to you doing so, it is advisable to seek the aid of legal professionals. Perhaps all it will take is a letter written from an attorney to convince the neighbor of the error of his or her ways and their potential liability.

If you’re facing a dispute with your neighbor or neighbors, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are prepared to guide you through the murky waters which often accompany such quarrels. Call today at (215)-947-6240 for a free initial consultation, or contact us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Texting While Driving in Pennsylvania: Understanding the Law

In conversations with friends and family, especially those with teenage or young drivers, a common question comes up: what exactly is the law in Pennsylvania in regards to texting and driving?

Make no mistake about it: Pennsylvania takes texting and driving very seriously as it has become a major epidemic in this state and, indeed, this country. In fact, in Pennsylvania there is a specific Anti-Texting Law codified at 75 Pa.C.S.A. 3316 which reads as follows: “No driver shall operate a motor vehicle on a highway or traffic way in this Commonwealth while using an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion. A person does not send, read or write a text-based communication when the person reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in an interactive wireless communications device for the purpose of activating or deactivating a voice communication or a telephone call.”

An “interactive wireless communication device” is understood to mean a cellphone/smartphone, personal digital assistant, mobile computer or any similar device which can be voice communication, texting, e-mailing, browsing the Internet or instant messaging. It is important to note that this law is not intended to impact the use of GPS systems.

The crime is a summary offense with a penalty of a $50 fine, plus court costs and other fees. A conviction under this statute will not cost the driver points on his record and will not be recorded on the driver record (unless you’re a commercial driver).

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Texting While Driving

IMPACT: The Anti-Texting Law allows law enforcement officers to stop any driver that they observe using a cell phone for “text-based communication.” However, it should be emphasized that this law does not proscribe a driver in Pennsylvania from using a phone or other device to place, receive, or engage in a phone call. What does this mean? That an officer must differentiate between actions that often appear similar, which opens the door for a defense to the officer’s initial stop which should be considered if this initial seizure led to more serious charges (like a DUI).

If you have been charged under the PA Anti-Texting Law, an experienced criminal defense attorney can explain to you your rights and help you prepare the best possible defense. The legal team at Howland Hess O’Connell is available to assist you in handling this matter. A free and confidential consultation is one phone call away at 215-947-6240, or visit us online today.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Join Howland Hess O’Connell in Being Environmentally Friendly and Security Conscious!

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Shredding of papers which contain identifiers like dates of birth and social security numbers is paramount in protecting one’s personal information from identity thieves. The attorneys and staff at Howland Hess O’Connell make every effort to protect this information, and so should you!

Montgomery County is hosting a series of Paper Shredding Events for consumers only (no businesses). The closest shredding event to our offices in Montgomery County is scheduled for July 23, 2016 from 9 a.m. to noon at Abington Junior High at 2056 Susquehanna Road in Abington, PA 19001

There is a two box limit per vehicle dropping off papers. Paperclips and staples are okay. All other binding material must be removed.

Our attorneys and members of our staff will also be taking advantage of two other recycling events provided to all county residents. Household Hazardous Waste Collections have been scheduled. The two nearest to our offices in Huntingdon Valley are May 14, 2016 from 9 am to 3 pm at Temple University’s Ambler Campus off Butler Pike in Ambler, PA AND June 18, 2016 from 9 am to 3 pm at Abington Junior High on Susquehanna Road. Almost any cleaner, paint, thinner, varnish, fuel, or other liquid that is hiding in your garage, basement or workshop can be safely disposed of at this collection. Also collected are fire extinguishers, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent tubes, and thermometers.

Montgomery County is also hosting an event for collecting used automobile tires for recycling. There is an eight tire limit per vehicle dropping them off. The site is Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell. The date of the event is Saturday, May 21, 2016. Tires will be collected from 9 am till noon.

Join Howland Hess O’Connell in protecting both your security and the environment!

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.