… no matter how much they want to. Many planned community and condominium declarations have a confession of judgment paragraph.  These are usually towards the back and written in all caps (just like my father-in-law sending an email).  They seem to permit associations to bypass all of the demand letters and District Justice courtrooms, and just enter a judgment against the Unit Owner.  But what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in practice.  Pennsylvania Courts just re-affirmed the long-time rule that Associations cannot confess judgment against Unit Owners.

Residential condominium or homeowner association assessments are a “consumer credit transaction.”  This means that the assessments are used to pay for goods or services that are primarily for personal family or household use.  Pennsylvania law says that a person cannot enter a confessed judgment against another for a debt that comes from a consumer credit transaction.  In the case that I read, the Association and the Unit Owner entered into a payment plan.  When the Unit Owner stopped making payments, the Association entered a confessed judgment against him. The Court struck the confessed judgment on its own – it did not even wait for the Unit Owner to make a request.  Continue Reading Associations Cannot Enter A Confessed Judgment Against Unit Owners…

A few months ago I wrote about the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s avoidance of ruling on whether employers have a duty to protect their employees’ personal information. We now have an answer to that question (at least in this Commonwealth) from Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court: Yes, yes it does.

On the eve of Thanksgiving the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its decision in Dittman v. UPMC. This lawsuit was brought by employees of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center over a data breach that leaked the employees’ names, birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information. But the existence of a duty by UPMC to protect this personal information remained in doubt. The Court ended this debate by ruling:

an employer has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to safeguard its employees’ sensitive personal information stored by the employer on an internet-accessible computer system.

For employees, this is a decision that should be heralded as an important protection against identity theft. After all, what choice does an employee have but to give personal data to their employer? That the employer must protect that information is just common sense. Continue Reading PA Supreme Court Finds Employers Must Protect Their Employees’ Personal Data

It’s December, which means the holiday season is officially in high gear and that it’s now socially appropriate to listen to holiday music. If your calendar is anything like mine, you may have a few holiday parties coming up – you may even be hosting such a party.

If so, what are some of the legal risks associated with hosting a party? Continue Reading It’s Holiday Party Season – Let’s Talk About Risk!

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Any month is a good time to recognize the life-changing impact of adoption and the love and support given by adoptive families.  I have worked with countless families throughout the years and they are among the most loving and generous people I know.

For many families, fostering children is their calling. Those families will foster many children for a period of time before those children return to the custody of a biological parent or other family member. Other families foster for the purpose of adopting children themselves. Families interested in fostering in order to be an adoptive resource in the future for their foster child  should always understand as much about the process as possible.  Start by asking the caseworker   questions.  Here are my top ten: Continue Reading 10 Things You Should Ask Your Caseworker Before Becoming an Adoptive Resource

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, somewhat quietly, has issued a sales tax bulletin recently setting forth some guidance which lays the groundwork for the Department of Revenue to begin imposing a 6% sales tax on products served by Pennsylvania breweries in their taproom to customers. This would include draft beers that are sold onsite and six packs and growlers which are sold for off premises consumption.

There didn’t appear to be a lot of buzz when this guidance was passed by the Department of Revenue. Central Penn Business Journal published an article highlighting the double hit that many breweries are currently taking given the tariffs  that have been imposed by the Trump Administration on steel. What is of particular concern is the seemingly unfair and inconsistent manner in which the sales tax would be imposed on the sales made by breweries when compared to a restaurant. Continue Reading Sales Tax Coming on Breweries

As we move through the last quarter of 2018 and approach the end of the tax year, many families begin to gather necessary information for tax filings.  For adoptive parents, the process of claiming their adopted child as a dependent on their annual income tax returns can be somewhat confusing when the adoption occurs later in a tax year and certain information and documentation cannot be obtained prior to tax filing deadlines.

When children are adopted, their legal status as dependents and their change of name are completed the day of their adoption finalization hearing.  Typically immediately following the adoption finalization hearing, the judge overseeing the hearing will execute an Adoption Decree and shortly thereafter, the County court office which is responsible for processing adoption paperwork will issue a Certificate of Adoption.  Those documents evidence an adoptive child’s new name and identify their legal parents.  That information should be sufficient to claim a child dependency exemption for an adopted child.  However, additional details are required in order to actually take an appropriate child dependency exemption for an adopted child.  Continue Reading Child Dependency Exemptions for Adopted Children

Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP is proud to sponsor the Junior League of Lancaster’s 16th Annual Author’s Luncheon featuring bestselling author, novelist and short story writer Alice Hoffman.  I am particularly excited about this event because I am an active member of the Junior League of Lancaster and I have the honor of chairing this year’s luncheon.

Ms. Hoffman’s most notable works include Practical Magic, its prequel, The Rules of Magic, and Dovekeepers, a New York Times bestseller.

The Author’s Luncheon will take place on Friday, November 30, 2018 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square. The program starts at noon, but the doors will open at 11:00 AM leaving plenty of time to enjoy a book signing with Ms. Hoffman, raffle, silent auction and cash bar.  Tickets for the luncheon are $75.00 ($35.00 for students) and can be purchased on the Junior League of Lancaster’s website. Continue Reading The Junior League of Lancaster’s 16th Annual Author’s Luncheon Featuring Alice Hoffman

Admittedly, I was not always a country music fan but over the years my tastes in music have changed and, with the crossover of country music into more mainstream popular music, I find myself liking country music more and more.  There is something enjoyable and uplifting about the relatively wholesome lyrics. Let’s face it, if I have to ask my kids to make sure they are listening to a “clean” version of a song one more time, my head may explode.  In addition to my growing love for country music, I love being an adoption attorney.  It is one of the few areas of law in which I practice that almost always brings me joy and a true sense of accomplishment. So, imagine the overwhelming happiness I felt when driving with my son in the car and he played Thomas Rhett’s song “Life Changes”Continue Reading What Does Thomas Rhett Really Know About Adoption?

This post is part of our ongoing series translating the lawyer-gibberish of Pennsylvania lawsuits into something understandable. For the definitions of the terms in bold check out the post that launched this series. A list of the posts in the series is at the end of this article.

The lawyers have exchanged documents setting out the claims and defenses. But before you get to trial, you get to gather evidence to support your case (and figure out what cards the other side has to play). This process is called “Discovery” and there are a few tools that can be used.

Asking Written Questions (Interrogatories and Request for Admissions)

One of the first tools your lawyer is likely to use are Interrogatories. These are written questions to the other side. The other party, helped by their lawyer, must answer the questions within 30 days (although extensions are commonly given for any type of discovery if its early in the case). Common Interrogatories include things like:

  • what witnesses might have information about this case?
  • do you have an expert witness?
  • what are your damages?

Continue Reading Explaining PA Lawsuits Using Plain Language (Part IV) – Who’s On First

Kim Carter PatersonRussell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP is pleased to announce that Kim Carter Paterson has joined the firm’s expanding Trusts and Estates practice group. Kim previously served clients in Lancaster and surrounding communities for more than 20 years in private practice with Blakinger Thomas and will continue to provide personal service with the added convenience of Russell, Krafft & Gruber’s satellite offices in Willow Street and Ephrata.

Kim works closely with individuals and families to develop and implement estate plans that are tailored to their unique needs, including special needs trusts, long-term care planning, charitable giving and various tax planning options for complex estate plans. She also assists families with all aspects of estate and trust administration.  Kim represents clients in Orphans’ Court proceedings, such as guardianship actions for the appointment of guardians for incapacitated persons and minors, spousal elections and fiduciary accountings and adjudications. Her practice includes a particular emphasis on legal issues often encountered by the elderly.  Kim is also certified to appear before the United States Board of Veterans’ Affairs to represent veterans and their spouses in claims for veterans’ pension benefits.

Kim has been active in the Lancaster community throughout her legal career.  She is a current member of the Planned Giving Council for Hospice and Community Care and is a past member of the Boards of Excentia, Hospice of Lancaster County, No Longer Alone Ministries, S. June Smith Center and National Wild Turkey Federation, Southern End Strutters Chapter. Kim is a founding member and former secretary of the Manor Softball Board.

Kim is a member of the Pennsylvania and Lancaster Bar Associations and is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, Eastern and Middle Districts, the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.