12 Rules for Lawyers to Ethically Deal With Social Media

For lawyers, the issue of social media – whether it is their use of it or, God forbid, their clients’ use of it – is one that seems to pervade every area of their practices. As a result, many attorneys prefer the “head in the sand” approach, hoping that if they ignore it, it will go away.

To assist lawyers in dealing with social media, and help them address their concerns head-on, I authored an article, “12 Rules for Ethically Dealing With Social Media,” which appeared in the February 2017 issue of Business Law Today, published by the American Bar Association Business Law Section.

The article is based on my experience with clients; representing and counseling other attorneys and law firms; and as the primary author of multiple ethical guidance opinions published by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility (of which I am a Vice Chair) and the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Guidance Committee.

In the article, I outline twelve important rules for attorneys dealing with social media, regardless of the nature of their practices. Click here to read the article.

Please vote for the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC in the Delco’s Best Lawyers poll.

Please vote for the Havertown Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC in the Delco’s Best Lawyers poll in our major practice areas: Appellate; Personal Injury; Workers’ Compensation. To do so, go to http://pa.journalregister.com/delcotimes/toplawyers/. Here’s why we believe we have earned your support.

Our office is proud of our reputation for providing high quality legal services in an affordable client-focused manner. We are also proud that we have been recognized by our peers in Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. One of the differences that we do not often discuss is that the majority of our clients are lawyers, who hire us to handle their complex appeals, provide guidance on ethical issues, and prepare them for trial. As part of these lawyer-focused services, nearly 2,000 attorneys and judges read our monthly newsletter highlighting recent Pennsylvania appeals court decisions.

February 2017 highlighted these successes:

  • We represented a local church in defense of a claim that it did not maintain its property safely. The Philadelphia jury returned a verdict in favor of our client/the church in 40 minutes.
  • We settled the medical benefits portion of a workers’ compensation claim for $685,134.40, for a client with a serious back injury. The total settlements for this client have exceeded $800,000.00.
  • We were hired as appeals counsel in a case in which the trial court dismissed claims by two student athletes who were injured in a football practice drill. In the case, the Superior Court refused to enforce a release that would have insulated a college and others from liability. The Court agreed that a jury should decide whether the college’s failure to have qualified athletic trainers at the practice, and its use of a dangerous tackling drill, constituted gross negligence or recklessness.

For these reasons, we ask our clients and friends to vote in the poll for Delco’s Best Lawyers. Just go to http://pa.journalregister.com/delcotimes/toplawyers/.


Superior Court Refuses to Apply Exculpatory Waivers to College Football Players Injured During Practice Drills – Attorneys Daniel Siegel and Nicole Kratzer Serve as Appellate Co-Counsel

The Superior Court has refused to enforce an exculpatory release that would have insulated a college from liability for serious injuries suffered by two student athletes during a football drill. Attorneys Daniel J. Siegel and Nicole Kratzer of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel, LLC served as appellate counsel with Attorney Andrew Motel, who filed the case and represents the plaintiffs before the trial court.

In Feleccia v. Lackawanna College, et al., the plaintiffs asserted that Lackawanna College’s failure to have qualified athletic trainers at the practice, and the use of a dangerous tackling drill, constituted gross negligence or recklessness. In support of their claims, plaintiffs retained multiple experts, including Richard C. Slocum, former Texas A&M University head football coach. The defendants asserted, however, that the students had signed a pre-injury release barring their claims that the college staff had made an improper return-to-play decision during a drill in which no licensed athletic trainer was present.

Judge Jacqueline Shogan authored the precedential decision, which was issued on February 24, 2017. Relying on Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corp., the Court concluded that otherwise valid liability waivers are unenforceable in claims of gross negligence or reckless conduct. The Superior Court also held that a special relationship exists between a college and its athletes, and that Lackawanna College had a duty to be reasonably prepared to handle foreseeable medical emergencies that occur during participation in a contact sport.

The Court also expressed its concern that the use of waivers such as this by colleges and universities would encourage the schools to ignore the health and safety of student athletes: “Aside from the concern about this practice drill being considered an inherent risk of football, we are concerned with a release being used to excuse a college from having qualified medical personnel readily available to its student athletes. Colleges are expected to put a priority on the health and safety of their students, especially student athletes engaged in dangerous sports. Many colleges profit significantly from student athletes’ participation in these sports. Enforcing a release and granting summary judgment in a situation where the availability of qualified medical personnel is called into question would jeopardize the health and safety of such student athletes by removing at least one incentive for colleges ‘to adhere to minimal standards of care and safety.’”

Click here to read the Opinion in Feleccia v. Lackawanna College, et al.

CLE on February 15th: “Help! They’re Changing the Rules & They Impact Everything Filed in a Pennsylvania Court!”

Havertown Attorney Dan Siegel will present his latest continuing legal education course, “Help! They’re Changing the Rules & They Impact Everything Filed in a Pennsylvania Court!” on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Delaware County Bar Association in Media, Pa. Click here for more information – http://www.delcobar.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=922395.

In the program, Dan will discuss the new Pennsylvania Public Access Policy, which goes into effect in January 2018. The new policy will impact every lawyer who files documents with any Pennsylvania court, and requires that confidential and sensitive information be redacted. For many law firms, the policy will require significant changes in how they handle court filngs. Dan discussed the new policy in his recent column in the Legal Intelligencer. Click here to read the column.



Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules That Workers’ Compensation Impairment Rating Physicians Are Not Bound by the Injury Described in the Notice of Compensation Payable

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a physician performing an Impairment Rating Evaluation under Section 306(a.2)(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 511.2(1) should consider all conditions that the physician believes are related to the work injury when performing an IRE. In the case, Duffey v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Trola-Dyne), No. 4 MAP 2016 (Pa. January 19, 2017), the Court ruled that an IRE physician must consider and exercise independent professional judgment to make a whole-body assessment of the degree of impairment “due to” the compensable injury.

In Duffey, the claimant underwent an IRE after receiving 104 weeks of benefits. The IRE physician considered only the injuries listed on the NCP and concluded that the claimant had a 6 percent total body impairment. Claimant filed a Review Petition, alleging that the physician failed to consider all of his work-related injuries, including psychological injuries. The Workers’ Compensation Judge agreed, granted the petition, invalidated the IRE and amended the NCP to include the psychological injuries. On appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board reversed and the Commonwealth Court affirmed the WCAB ruling. The Supreme Court granted allocatur and reversed the decision, with two Justices dissenting.

In the Majority Opinion, Chief Justice Saylor concluded that a physician conducting an IRE (1) must apply professional judgment to assess (or per the applicable Regulations, arrange for an assessment of) the Claimant’s psychological conditions, and (2) determine whether those condition were fairly attributable to the compensable work injury.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Baer asserted that the Majority had departed from the issue presented by the Claimant. He also concluded that the ruling will allow claimants to invalidate an IRE by expressing a new symptom previously unknown to an employer.

In a separate dissenting opinion, Justice Wecht argued that the Majority had misconstrued the concept of a “whole body” impairment to permit IRE physicians to go beyond the scope of a claimant’s compensable injury. He also criticized the Majority’s reliance on the 6th edition of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, particularly in light of the Commonwealth Court’s decision in Protz v. W.C.A.B. (Derry Area School District, 124 A.3d 406 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015), appeal granted, 133 A.3d 733 (Pa. 2016), in which the Court invalidated the use of the 6th edition of the AMA Guides.

Of further note, it is at the least, curious that the Court issued this Opinion before its decision in Protz. (Attorney Daniel J. Siegel authored the amicus curiae brief in Protz on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice.) If the Court completely invalidates the IRE process, then there would be no need for a decision in this case. I believe that the dissents are correct, however, that this opinion will lead to more litigation and will permit claimants to assert during an IRE that they suffer from injuries that have never been accepted as or determined by a WCJ to be compensable. Click here to read the Duffey opinion.

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