Since COVID has changed the way that we live and work, I have seen a handful of legal issues come up over and over. This blog series addresses some of these issues. The first article in this series talked about what happens when your adult child moves in and will not leave. Another scenario that
Legal Issues in a Post-COVID World: What Happens When Your Adult Child Won’t Leave?
Since COVID has changed the way that we live and work, I have seen a handful of legal issues come up over and over. While these are not new problems or opportunities, they have come up a lot more since COVID began. They could be a result of remote work, or the Great Resignation…
New Reporting Requirements for PA Businesses Coming Soon
The reporting requirements for Pennsylvania registered businesses and foreign associations are about to change in 2024 with the enactment of Act 122 of 2022 (“the Act”). According to the Act, business entities will now be required to file an annual report with the Department of State. Prior to this change, businesses were only required to…
How the Protection From Abuse (PFA) Process Works
The previous post on protection from abuse orders explained what a PFA Order does, who can a PFA Order be issued against, the definition of abuse, and the two different types of PFA Orders. In this blog, I will describe how the PFA process works so that you can prepare if you find yourself in…
A Judgment Has Been Entered Against Me. Is My House Safe From Judgment Creditors?
For most people, it can be very scary when a lawsuit is filed against them. When someone finds out they are being sued, they may not know exactly what that means or what will happen if a judgment is entered against them, especially one directing them to pay money.
One of the first questions that might pop into their mind is whether the person or business that filed a suit against them (legally known as the “plaintiff”) can take their house if they win. This is especially concerning since, for many Pennsylvanians, their home is the most valuable and important asset that they own.
This article will explain what happens when a judgment is entered against a defendant (in other words, the person being sued) and how that may affect the defendant’s ownership interest in their home.
What does it mean when a judgment is entered against the defendant?
A judgment is an award by the court granting a plaintiff some sort of relief against a defendant. A judgment is typically a court order directing a defendant to pay a plaintiff a sum of money.
Before a plaintiff can even attempt to collect from a defendant’s assets, they must first obtain a judgment against the defendant. Without a judgment, a plaintiff does not have the authority to take any property owned by the defendant. The plaintiff must win the lawsuit first.
In general, a plaintiff can only obtain a judgment against a defendant after one of the following things occurs:
- a plaintiff wins the lawsuit after a trial;
- the parties agree to a settlement that will be entered as a final judgment; or
- the defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit and a default judgment is entered against them.
When a judgment is entered for any of the reasons listed above, it gives the plaintiff the right to collect the amount of money ordered in the judgment.
Once a judgment is entered, the parties often negotiate a process and timeline for the defendant to settle the judgment through direct payment. In some cases, the defendant can’t or won’t agree to pay the judgment and the plaintiff has to take additional steps to get their money. This process is called “executing” the judgment.
A judgment may be executed in a variety of ways including seizing assets held in bank accounts and, in some cases, levying and selling the defendant’s real property, including their home.
Not All Real Estate Is Subject to Execution…
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What is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order?
Domestic violence is a very serious and sensitive problem. Receiving threatening text messages or calls, physical abuse to the body, or showing up to your house unannounced and uninvited and making threats are all circumstances that may make someone consider filing for a PFA Order. If you find yourself in need of protection against domestic violence, the Protection from Abuse process provides a way to obtain protection from your abuser.
I have represented plaintiffs and defendants in PFA matters, and I understand the stress that comes along with obtaining or defending a PFA Order and how serious PFA matters should be handled. Whether you are filing a PFA against someone else or have had one filed against you, it is important to understand what a PFA is and how the PFA system works so that you can be prepared.
What is a PFA?
Many times we hear a protection from abuse (“PFA”) order incorrectly referred to as a “restraining order.” In Pennsylvania, it is a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, not a restraining order that is issued by the court to protect victims of domestic violence, and, in some cases, their children, from their abuser.
A PFA Order is a civil order that protects a person and/or their minor children from domestic abuse by their abuser. A PFA Order will do several things to protect the victim:
- require an abuser to abide by certain requirements, such as refraining from being in the presence of the victim(s);
- prevent an abuser from stalking, harassing, threatening, abusing, or attempting to use physical force;
- and prevent an abuser from contacting the victim(s) or third parties to relay or get in contact with the victim(s) protected under the PFA Order.
A PFA Order also may evict the abuser from a shared residence, may prohibit the abuser from possessing any firearms, and may award temporary physical custody of the parties’ children to the victim.
Who can a PFA Order be issued against?
The Pennsylvania PFA Act sets forth specific rules on who a victim of domestic violence can file a PFA against.…
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Associations Cannot Ban Sex Offenders from Community
Many condominium and homeowners’ associations worry about people who are registered as sex offenders under the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), usually referred to as “Megan’s Law.” Many associations I work with have considered a range of ideas, from not allowing Megan’s Law registrants to use the community pool all the way to not allowing Megan’s Law registrants to own or rent units in the community. Up until now, there has not been much legal guidance on what an association can and cannot do. A recent case, Lake Naomi Club, Inc. v. Rosado, is the first Pennsylvania case to address some of these questions.
What is Megan’s Law?
Megan’s Law requires people who are convicted of certain sexual crimes to register with the Pennsylvania State Police. Registration may include information on where the person lives and works, photos and physical descriptions of the person, and descriptions of the crime that triggered the registration. Depending on the “Tier” of the sexual offense, a person could be required to register on the Megan’s Law site for 10, 15 or 25 years, or for life.
Some of the worst offenders – defined as “Sexually Violent Predators” – trigger a community notification process. For these registrants, the police will provide notification to anyone who lives or works within 250 feet of the registrant’s home, or to the 25 closest residences. They also provide notice to local school districts, day cares and preschools.
Megan’s Law does not say where registrants can or cannot live or work. Other than notification for Sexually Violent Predators, Megan’s Law does not require the police to tell anyone when a registrant moves into the community. People can search for sexual offenders or request notifications through the State Police.
The Lake Naomi case.
Lake Naomi HOA amended its Declaration to say that no registered Tier III sex offender can reside in any home within the Community. The amendment was approved by over 70% of the Unit Owners. Mr. Rosado owned a home in Lake Naomi when the amendment was passed. The Association sued Rosado to keep him from living in his home.
The Commonwealth Court decided that the Association could not prohibit Megan’s Law registrants from living in the Community. The Court said that Megan’s Law and the Parole Board establish the statewide public policy that regulates where Megan’s Law registrants may live. No condominium or homeowners’ association is allowed to restrict where sex offenders can or cannot live.
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#ExtraGive and Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP
Mark your calendars for the Lancaster County Extraordinary Give, occurring this week on Friday, November 18th. Russell, Krafft & Gruber is thrilled to participate in the #Extragive as a Commonwealth Court Sponsor of the Lancaster Law Foundation, one of the numerous nonprofits fundraising during the event.
The Lancaster Law Foundation (formerly known as the Lancaster Bar Association Foundation) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Lancaster County residents by promoting equal access to justice through philanthropy, education, and service. The Foundation funds public interest law projects, coordinates with local attorneys in delivering pro bono service, and educates the public on civic and legal issues.
In 2022 the Foundation, as part of the Community Grants Program, granted $84,000 to local nonprofits making a difference in our community. The Foundation also spent about $4,000 to create two new comfort rooms at the Lancaster County Courthouse. These rooms are intended to ease anxiety for children who must testify in court in custody and protection from abuse hearings. We at Russell, Krafft & Gruber are proud to have two attorneys serve on the Lancaster Law Foundation board, Julia G. Vanasse, Esq. and Nichole M. Baer, Esq. …
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National Adoption Month
November is National Adoption Month and over the years, Lancaster County Orphan’s Court Judges have celebrated it with balloons and LOTS of adoption finalizations on a single day. The tradition was begun by the Honorable Judge Jay J. Hoberg but was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. This year, with the help of…
Construction Defect: Why You Can’t Sue Your Builder’s Insurance Company
As a litigation attorney, I meet with many clients seeking advice because their new home construction or renovation project was done poorly. Whether these homeowners are dealing with big or small construction companies, the same problems arise when it comes to construction defects. Often, the contractor’s work was subpar, the homeowner spent thousands of dollars…