Law Offices Of Daniel J. Siegel Named to Best Law Firms in America

November 1, 2016 – The Havertown/Philadelphia Area Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC has been named to the “Best Law Firms” rankings for firms in the area of Workers’ Compensation – Claimants (Injured Workers). Published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, the listings “recognize [the firm] for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.”

To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Siegel, who founded the firm in 2005, is listed in Best Lawyers, and has also been recognized by his peers in other rankings.

The announcement is particularly well-timed because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard argument today in Protz v. WCAB, a landmark workers’ compensation case in which attorney Siegel authored the amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (formerly the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association).

“I am honored that the firm has received this distinction,” said attorney Dan Siegel, “because we are a small client-focused firm with only two attorneys and two support staff. This is a tribute to everyone at the firm and the fact that, although we handle many types of cases, including personal injury, Social Security Disability and wills, our peers recognize the efforts we make on behalf of all of our clients, including the 1000s of injured workers I have represented for more than 32 years.”

New Medicare Regulation Bans Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

Effective November 28, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a regulation prohibiting nursing homes from using pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. The Regulation also prohibit nursing homes from entering into an agreement for binding arbitration with a resident or the resident’s representative until a dispute arises between the parties.

Under the provision, a facility may not require a resident or a resident’s representative to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of admission to the facility. If, after a dispute arises, a facility chooses to ask a resident or his or her representative to enter into a binding arbitration agreement, the facility must comply with all of the requirements in the regulations. These requirements include, inter alia, that:

  • the agreement must be explained to the resident,
  • the agreement must be entered into voluntarily, and
  • the agreement must provide for the selection of a neutral arbitrator agreed upon by both parties.
  • the resident’s continuing right to remain in the facility must not be contingent upon the resident or the resident’s representative signing the binding arbitration agreement.

CMS, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued the regulation on October 4, 2016. Click here to read the entire regulation.

 

Pa. Supreme Court Rules That Federal Arbitration Act Preempts Pa.R.Civ.P. 2013(3), Permitting Courts To Enforce Arbitration Agreements in Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §2, preempts Pa.R.Civ.P. 2013(e), which requires consolidation of survival and wrongful death actions for trial. Consequently, the Court held that plaintiffs’ wrongful death and survival actions must be bifurcated, and that the survival action must proceed to arbitration under the FAA.
The decision in Taylor v. Extendicare addresses the interaction between the FAA and arbitration agreements, but declines to apply the FAA’s “savings clause,” which permits courts to refuse to enforce agreements to arbitrate under state laws that “arose to govern issues concerning the validity, revocability, and enforceability of contracts generally.” In reversing the Superior Court and the trial court, the majority, in an Opinion by Justice Wecht, noted that the U.S. “Supreme Court has limited the role of state courts to regulating contracts to arbitrate under general contract law principles in accord with the savings clause, under which it has held that only ‘generally applicable contract defenses, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability, may be applied to invalidate arbitration agreements without contravening [the FAA].’” Justices Saylor, Baer and Dougherty joined in the opinion, with Chief Justice Saylor filing a concurring opinion in which Justice Baer joined.
Justice Donohue filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Todd joined. Justice Donohue noted that it was “incorrect to focus the analysis on the dispensability of Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(e) under the pressure of the herculean FAA. Instead, the pinpoint question [was] whether the FAA can divest wrongful death heirs of their statutorily created right to bring a wrongful death action in this Commonwealth. Because 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301 (the “Wrongful Death Act”) preconditions the maintenance of heirs’ claims on their joinder with any claim pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8302 (the “Survival Act”), severance defeats the heirs’ right to recover under the statutorily created cause of action. Although the Majority may be correct in its apocalyptic recitation of existing United States Supreme Court precedent, the FAA does not and cannot deprive a citizen of this Commonwealth of the right to pursue a cause of action.”

Dan Siegel Featured in Legal Intelligencer, Discusses New Ethics Rule Relating to the Sale of Law Practices

The September 28, 2016 issue of the Legal Intelligencer, the daily newspaper of the Philadelphia legal community, features comments by Havertown Attorney Dan Siegel. The article, “Rule Change Allows New Retirement Route for Solos,” discusses the amendments to Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.17, which regulates the manner in which attorneys may sell all or a portion of their law practices.

Previously, Rule 1.17 drastically limited the ways solo attorneys could sell their practices. Siegel, who is the author of Changing Law Firms: Ethical Guidance for Pennsylvania Law Firms and Attorneys, Second Edition, regularly represents attorneys who are impacted by this Rule. The article notes that Siegel “has been advocating for a change in the rules ‘for some time.'” The article also quotes Siegel, who explained that “The old rule created significant obstacles that basically only existed for solo attorneys who were trying to wind down practice or change practice areas.”

The new Rule becomes effective on October 24, 2017.

Lawyers & Social Media – Adding Flames to Fires

Ah, social media. Facebook, Yelp, you name it, social media is out there, and lawyers are using – and misusing it. Here are some recent examples that highlight the issues confronting us – and why it is best to recognize the problems up front – so you don’t have to hire me to represent you in front of the Disciplinary Board later.

Consider Attorney John Mahoney of Washington, DC, who got into a conflict with a former client, who thought his fees were excessive, and his expenses were unwarranted and unnecessary. The client also was displeased with his representation during mediation.

The client posted comments about the attorney on a website. In his response, Attorney Mahoney revealed specific information about the case, the client’s emotional state, and what transpired during your attorney-client relationship – although he did not identify the client by name. Although the investigation did not support the client’s allegations against the attorney, he nevertheless violated the Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6’s prohibition against revealing client confidences.

In particular, the lawyer included the name of the client’s employer, the dates on which certain events occurred, and other detailed information that could lead back to his former client. He added to his problems by violating Rule 8.4(c) when he “posted a further response on the website concerning Disciplinary Counsel’s investigation of the client’s allegations and Disciplinary Counsel’s statements. Specifically, although Disciplinary Counsel advised you that your postings on the website about the client were inconsistent with your obligations under Rule 1.6, you posted another response on the website stating that Disciplinary Counsel had ‘clear[ed]’ you and quoted a sentence from a letter that omitted information about the Rule 1.6 violations that we found meritorious.” Click here to read the DC Disciplinary Decision.

Or, consider Attorneys John Robertelli and Gabriel Adamo, whose New Jersey Supreme Court case focuses on procedural issues regarding the New Jersey Disciplinary process. With that caveat, the case’s genesis was Facebook. Here’s what happened:

“On March 10, 2007, a police car driven by a sergeant with the Oakland Police Department allegedly struck a pedestrian, Dennis Hernandez. Hernandez claimed that he suffered permanent injuries, and commenced suit against the Borough, the police department, and the sergeant. Plaintiffs, who are attorneys licensed in New Jersey, were employed by the law firm that represented the defendants in the lawsuit. In order to obtain information about Hernandez, plaintiffs directed a paralegal employed by the firm to search the internet. Among other sources, she accessed Hernandez’s Facebook page. Initially, the page was open to the public. At a later point, the privacy settings on the account were changed to limit access to Facebook users who were Hernandez’s “friends.” The [Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE)] contends that plaintiffs directed the paralegal to access and continue to monitor the non-public pages of Hernandez’s Facebook account. She therefore submitted a “friend request” to Hernandez, without revealing that she worked for the law firm representing defendants or that she was investigating him in connection with the lawsuit. Hernandez accepted the friend request, and the paralegal was able to obtain information from the non-public pages of his Facebook account.

“Hernandez learned of the firm’s actions during discovery in the lawsuit, and objected to defendants’ use at trial of the documents that the paralegal obtained from his Facebook page. He also filed a grievance with the District II-B Ethics Committee, asserting that plaintiffs violated the RPCs by contacting him directly through his Facebook page without first contacting his attorney. The Secretary of the District II Ethics Committee, with the consent of a public member, declined to docket the grievance, having concluded that the allegations, if proven, would not constitute unethical conduct. Hernandez’s attorney then contacted the Director of the OAE (Director) and requested that the OAE review the matter and docket it for a full investigation and potential hearing.

“After further investigation, the Director filed a complaint against plaintiffs with the District XIV Ethics Committee. Plaintiffs requested that the Director withdraw the complaint, contending that the OAE was precluded from proceeding after the DEC declined to docket the grievance. The Director refused to withdraw the complaint, and plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Superior Court to enjoin the OAE from pursuing the matter. The trial court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Supreme Court and the ethics bodies that it established have exclusive jurisdiction over attorney disciplinary matters. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s determination in an unpublished decision.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ petition for certification and held that, consistent with the broad authority that the Rules of Court grant the Director and the important goals of the disciplinary process, the Director has authority to review a grievance after a DEC Secretary has declined to docket the grievance. The OAE may therefore proceed to prosecute plaintiffs’ alleged misconduct.” Click here to read Robertelli v. New Jersey Office of Ethics.

All because of Facebook.

In short, be careful, get guidance, and avoid being too social on social media.

 

 

 

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