Automobile Accidents

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Pittsburgh Automobile Accidents Lawyers

Hundreds of people get injured or killed in car accidents each year. These accidents will likely leave a lasting effect on the lives of people and their families for years to come.


By Thomas Gravina


First and Foremost:

“Limited Tort” Option:

Pennsylvania has adopted the “Limited Tort” Option. This Option limits your right and the right of members of your household to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. Under the Limited Tort form of insurance your recovery for injuries sustained by yourself or other household members is severely limited. Although you may seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, you may not sue for pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages with some exceptions. You or other members of your household may only sue for pain and suffering if your injuries fall within the definition of “Serious Injury” as set forth in the policy. The definition of “Serious Injury” has been narrowly interpreted and would exclude, in most instances, injuries such a broken arm, broken leg, “whiplash injury”, rib fractures and other injuries that would not leave a person permanently impaired.

While the “Limited Tort” Option is slightly less expensive then the “Full Tort” Option, you must clearly be aware that you are giving up some of your rights to sue in exchange for a relatively low premium reduction.

“Full Tort” Option:

An insured in Pennsylvania also has the option of choosing “Full Tort”, which if chosen, you and other members of your household maintain an unrestricted right to seek “full” financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. Under this form of insurance, you and your household members may seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses and may also seek financial compensation for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages as a result of injuries caused by other drivers.

While the annual premium for “Full Tort” is higher than for “Limited Tort”, this option should be seriously considered when purchasing or renewing an insurance policy.

In many instances, while the pain, suffering an inconvenience caused by injuries such as a broken arm or leg, whiplash or other bodily fractures are not considered “serious injury” under Limited Tort, the pain and suffering and inconvenience associated with such injuries can be quite substantial. In many or most cases involving injuries in an automobile accident, the recovery available under this Option far exceeds any savings realized in selecting Limited Tort. Carefully consider this Option when purchasing or renewing your insurance policy.



Pennsylvania, as well as many other states, mandates that an automobile owner purchase auto insurance for at least a State-mandated minimum. In Pennsylvania this minimum is $15,000 for injury to one person and $30,000 for all injuries caused by an incident. A basic auto insurance policy is comprised of six basic types of coverage, some of which are required by State law, while others are optional. The various types are:

  1. Bodily Injury Liability;
  2. Property Damage Liability;
  3. Personal Injury Protection (PIP);
  4. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist;
  5. Collision; and

6 Comprehensive


Liability coverage is required in Pennsylvania and in most states. If you are at fault in an accident, your liability insurance will cover the cost of bodily injury and property damage caused to others involved in the accident, as well as the cost of your legal bills associated with the accident. It is extremely important to consider the amount of coverage you are able to afford, keeping in mind that if the injuries and property damages caused by you exceed the amount of the coverage you purchased, the injured parties may sue you for the difference between the total damages incurred and the amount your insurance company pays.

Property Damage Liability Coverage falls within the Liability Coverage which you are required to purchase. While Property Damage Liability Coverage usually repairs damage to the other driver’s vehicle, it can also cover damages to things such as lamp poles, fences, buildings, or anything else that you may have struck.

As Liability insurance is the foundation of most auto insurance policies, careful attention must be paid to be sure that you have enough coverage to avoid a short-fall in coverage which would put your savings, investments and other property in jeopardy of being lost. In short, consider being safe rather than sorry.


Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is required coverage in Pennsylvania. Personal Injury Protection will pay your medical bills to the extent of your coverage when injury occurs as a result of an accident while you are driving your car, someone else’s car (with their permission), and the injuries you or your family members incur as pedestrians. Additionally, PIP may cover other expenses that are related to injury in addition to medical, which include lost wages, child care and funeral costs. Ordinarily, if you have a good health insurance plan, there may be little need to buy more than the minimum required. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. PIP Coverage is relatively inexpensive and a rather small premium purchases substantial coverage in the event of injury and lost wages. When your automobile insurance carrier pays your expenses and lost wages, they are not entitled to recover the payments made to you should you make recovery against another driver who was responsible for your accident. On the other hand, if your medical bills have been paid by your Health Insurance Company, the amounts paid on your behalf may have to be paid to that health insurance company or disability insurance company that made payments on your behalf. Primary examples of payments made which must be reimbursed include payments made by Medicare, Medicaid, Public Assistance Benefits, and payments made by Health Insurance Companies through employer provided health insurance (ERISA). The right of these health care providers to recover is often times referred to as a subrogation interest.

This concept is best understood with an example: You are injured in an automobile accident and the sum of $50,000, the amount of your coverage, was paid to your healthcare providers under your PIP Coverage. You then seek recovery against the driver who was at fault and are awarded a settlement or a verdict in the amount of $100,000. In this example, the entire settlement or verdict is awarded to you with no responsibility to make any payment whatsoever to your auto insurance company for what it may have paid.

However, let’s assume the same injuries and a recovery of $100,000 with medical bills of $50,000. You have purchased PIP coverage of $10,000. Your medical bills of $50,000 were paid by your automobile insurance carrier to the extent of your $10,000 coverage. The balance was then paid by Medicare or your company-provided health insurance (ERISA).

In this example, you have no responsibility to repay your automobile carrier the sum of $10,000 it expended. The sum of $40,000 must, however, be reimbursed to Medicare or your ERISA health benefit provider before you are entitled to receive any monies as a result of your injuries. Therefore, you will only receive $60,000 of the $100,000 recovery made with the sum of $40,000 being paid to Medicare or ERISA health care in reimbursement.

The amount of PIP coverage you purchase should be carefully considered in light of the foregoing examples.


Like Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage protects you and your family when injured in an automobile accident which was not your fault. When seen in this light it is easily recognizable that this form of coverage is extremely important. While Liability Insurance Coverage is mandated by State law at a minimum amount, please recognize that many individuals drive vehicles without the required insurance or with only the minimum $15,000 coverage. In the event that an accident causing injury to you is caused by an uninsured motorist, unless you have uninsured motorist Coverage, you cannot make any recovery for your injuries except through your own uninsured motorist Coverage. Of course, you retain your right to sue the party at fault, however, if they were driving without insurance, it is very unlikely that they would have any assets with which to provide compensation to you. Uninsured Motorist Coverage also comes in to play if you are struck and injured by a hit and run driver.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) often comes in to play in Pennsylvania accidents as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania only requires a driver to carry $15,000 in liability insurance. In today’s economy and with the cost of medical care, the $15,000 required Liability Coverage is quickly exhausted. In such an event an injured insured who was not at fault can turn to his own insurance carrier to cover the difference in damages between the $15,000 provided by the underinsured driver and the amount of coverage you carry with your own insurance company. As an example, if you sustain injuries for which you are entitled to $100,000 in compensation , you would be entitled to receive $15,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and the balance of $85,000 from your own insurance company if your Underinsured Coverage was $100,000.

It should be obvious that Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage is extremely important to you and your family and high coverage limits should be considered. Be reminded, however, that uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage can only be purchased in an amount equal to the Liability Insurance Coverage that you purchase for your vehicle. From a cost standpoint, carrying high Liability Coverage and equal amounts in Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage is a wise financial choice. Remember that the Liability Coverage of your policy is very reasonable and limits can be raised to a higher level without a substantial increase in your premiums.


Collision Coverage will pay to repair your vehicle if you cause an automobile accident. This coverage typically covers the actual cash value of your car, which is not the same as the car’s replacement cost. Collision Coverage is normally the most expensive component of auto insurance. The cost of Collision Coverage can be reduced by choosing a higher deductible, which is the amount you will pay out-of-pocket before your insurance company is required to make additional payment to you. As Collision Coverage is very expensive, you should carefully consider if the purchase of Collision Coverage, which is not required by Pennsylvania, is the right choice for you. Remember that should substantial damage occur to your older model auto, the insurance company may well conclude that it will “total” your car. If the cost of repairs exceed a certain percentage of the car’s worth, you will only be paid the actual cash value of your car and not its replacement cost. If you have an automobile which has an actual cash value of $1,000 and a deductible of $250, the most that you can expect to recover from your insurance company is $750. Your yearly premium costs in this situation could exceed the amount that you could recover.


Comprehensive Coverage will pay for damages to your car that were not caused by an auto accident, such as theft, fire, vandalism, natural disaster or hitting a deer. Comprehensive Coverage also comes with a deductible and your insurance company will only pay up to the amount the car was worth at the time the car was damaged. Comprehensive Coverage is not a required coverage under Pennsylvania law.

While Collision and Comprehensive Coverage are not required under Pennsylvania law, when you finance a car, your lender may require that your purchase Collision and Comprehensive Coverage as part of the loan agreement. Please remember that if your car is financed you will be required to pay the total amount you owe to the finance company notwithstanding that you may no longer have use of the vehicle.


The above information is not intended to be exhaustive with regard to automobile insurance coverage in Pennsylvania. However, if it provides some answers to questions regarding your insurance coverage, it has served its purpose. In conclusion, please know that insurance companies will charge different premiums for the same coverage. It is important to determine exactly what coverages you would like to purchase and in what amounts and then check the premium being charged by a number of insurance companies to be sure that you receive the coverage you desire at the best possible cost.

If you have sustained any injuries in a car accident, truck accident, bike crash or any other type of automobile crash, please contact us today We will evaluate your case and provide you with a Free Consultation. We will not charge you any fee unless there is a monetary recovery for you.

We shall investigate your accident from the start to determine the party at fault. If need be, we shall consult with an accident reconstructionist to determine liability. After determining liability we shall focus on your damages and make sure you receive the maximum possible recovery for your claim. Medical bills, lost salary or wages, property damage and pain and mental suffering generally account for your damages.

We represent clients that have experienced all kinds of automobile-related accidents. These include:

  • Car Accidents
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Bus Accidents
  • Boating Accidents
  • Truck Accidents
  • Train Accidents
  • Vehicle-Related Wrongful Death


Our Pittsburgh Car Accident Lawyers will obtain all necessary information in the form of medical records and billings to prepare your claim properly so you can focus on your rehabilitation. Our Pennsylvania Accident attorneys will manage your case and work diligently with you. We will guide you throughout the process from the pre-litigation settlement discussions to mediation or arbitration, and throughout trial if necessary.

Soon after sustaining an injury you should get in touch with a Car Accident Lawyer in Pittsburgh who can protect your rights. For professional representation you can depend on Eddy DeLuca Gravina & Townsend for any type of motor vehicle accident.

Our expert Car Accident Attorneys provide representation to car accident victims all over the State of Pennsylvania.

Contact a Pittsburgh Car Accident Lawyer at Eddy DeLuca Gravina & Townsend today.


The state knows where medical errors are harming patients. But it won’t tell you.



Last year, 253 people in Pennsylvania died under circumstances for which a medical professional may have been responsible.


The state knows where these deaths happens — which hospitals, care homes and other medical facilities — but it doesn’t allow you to know.


The agency tasked with keeping data on medical errors and related issues in the the state is the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. It collects hundreds of thousands of reports a year from designated safety officers of medical facilities.


Ninety-seven percent of the roughly 239,000 incidents recorded in 2015 were “near misses,” lapses in safety protocol that were noticed, but did not harm a patient.


More than 7,700 reports recounted “serious events,” in which a patient was harmed. More than half of these cases were complications related to procedures, treatments and tests. Medication error, adverse drug reactions and patient falls, among other issues, made up the rest.


If you want to find out how your local hospital fares on medical errors, the authority can’t help you. The law that created the agency mandates it keeps its reports under lock and key, beyond the reach of the usual ways journalists and lawyers obtain public records in Pennsylvania.


The medical world is growing more aware of the magnitude of medical errors. A study published in The British Medical Journal in May estimated that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. Yet the agency charged with tracking them in Pennsylvania does its number crunching in the dark.


Medical errors reported in PA, 2005-2015





The 2002 law creating the state’s Patient Safety Authority dictates that it only releases its data as statistics.


The statute — the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act, referred to as the “MCare” law — shields incident reports from subpoena in lawsuits and the Right to Know law that enables Pennsylvanians to request many kinds of public records from the state. The names of doctors and others involved are also omitted from reports before they go to the authority.


Did the state ever take corrective action over a “serious event?” That’s also confidential.


Though the two agencies are separate, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reviews reports of infrastructure failures and serious events submitted to the Patient Safety Authority and looks for evidence a state or federal law was broken, according to a department spokesperson.


If there is reason to suspect that’s the case, the department launches an investigation. As for how many they conduct per year, into whom, and what the results were, the public can’t know that either.


“The statute does not permit the department to release information that makes clear when a report to the Patient Safety Authority has resulted in an investigation,” Holli Senior, a special assistant to the department’s secretary, wrote in an email to PublicSource.


Human error


Heart disease is the culprit in one in every four deaths. Cancer took more than 591,000 lives in 2014.


According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the next leading cause of death is medical errors. That would put medical error above respiratory diseases, accidents and diabetes.


“Human error isn’t on there but getting run over by a cow is.”


It’s an estimate because “medical error” is not a category on death certificates in the United States. The certificates are based on the International Classification of Diseases.


That index was written before awareness of medical negligence as a major issue, according to Dr. Michael Daniel, co-author of the report. “Human error isn’t on there but getting run over by a cow is,” he notes.


Like the authors of a report on error that shook the medical establishment in 1999, Daniel and Dr. Martin Makary used a synthesis of past reports to calculate the prevalence of medical error in the United States.


The 1999 report, the Institute of Medicine’s “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” found that, “At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented.”


Daniel and Makary’s 2016 report puts the fatality rate at 251,000 per year.


‘We are not a watchdog’


When Dr. Rachel Levine took the position of state physician general in January 2015, becoming the chair of the Patient Safety Authority’s Board of Directors came with it. She stresses that autonomy is important to maintain the non-punitive, data-gathering role of the authority.


A medical facility’s safety officer, usually a nurse, should feel comfortable reporting all the incidents he or she is mandated to report to the authority without thinking it could come back to harm his or her employer, Levine said.


“I think the idea is to increase facilities’ reporting,” she said, adding, “We want to work with them to help improve patient safety. We are not a watchdog.”


The authority standardized forms for facilities in April 2015 to improve consistency in reporting. The 253 deaths reported in 2015 represent a 22 percent increase in fatalities from 2014, when 208 deaths were reported as stemming from potential medical errors. The authority attributes the increase, in part, to the change in reporting.


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Meanwhile, there are other, more transparent ways that the Department of Health maintains patient safety, said Wes Culp, deputy press secretary. He points to the hospital, nursing care facility and healthcare-associated infection reports available on its website. Also, licensing boards review the conduct of medical professionals.


Regina Hoffman, executive director of the Patient Safety Authority, stresses the need for a “free flow of information.” She said information gathered by the authority has led to efforts to lessen patient falls and pressure ulcers, common problems that were revealed by the data.


Hoffman said it’s crucial that safety officers don’t think they are building a bad reputation by noting lapses in protocol, the ones that don’t involve harm to a patient and make up the majority of reports the authority gets. “It’s very important they are not fearful of reporting,” she said.


Making patient safety data and these reports publicly available isn’t the same as publishing restaurant health and safety violations cited by inspectors, Hoffman said.


Medical providers self-report to the authority. If one hospital has more reports than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the hospital is lax about patient safety, she said; it could mean the facility takes patient safety more seriously.


“We would not want to judge a facility by the number of near misses,” Hoffman said. “A good facility is going to report a lot.”


The history of the MCare law


The 2002 MCare bill that created the authority was passed in response to the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 bombshell report on medical errors, which began starkly: “Health care in the United States is not as safe as it should be — and can be.”


Legislators in Pennsylvania began crafting an overhaul of the state’s medical safety and malpractice policies. A major facet of the MCare bill was the establishment of a fund that acted as a kind of state insurance program for people deemed in court to have been injured by medical negligence.


It is financed by surcharges to healthcare providers. What providers are charged each year is based on assessment rates at the Joint Underwriting Association, an insurance industry group. If payments to harmed patients fall lower than expected, facilities get a refund.


The creation of the MCare law “involved a legislative battle between proponents of more protections for patients against proponents of more protections for medical care providers,” attorney Clifford A. Rieders wrote in a 2005 article for the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly.


Gradually, the bill became softer on patient safety, Rieders concluded.


Proposed regulations that would have benefitted patients, he wrote, were removed in legislative committees, including one that would have levied a penalty for altering or destroying medical records.


As part of the overhaul, healthcare providers were required to report an array of incidents to the newly created Patient Safety Authority, which would use them to compile data and make recommendations that would decrease medical errors — and with that the fees to the MCare fund.


Progress and protocols


Deaths from medical error in Pennsylvania have declined from 453 in 2005 to 253 in 2015.


Large healthcare systems also have internal protocols for reducing errors.


Number of reported deaths from medical errors, 2005-2015



*The 253 deaths reported in 2015 represent a 22 percent increase in fatalities from 2014. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority attributes the increase, in part, to the change in reporting.


Source: Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority 2015 annual report


Dr. Sam D. Reynolds, chief quality officer of Allegheny Health Network, said the conglomeration of hospitals and practices has its own data collection process. In addition to the state-mandated safety officer, each AHN facility has a quality director, and a network of committees and officers review safety data.


UPMC’s chief quality officer, Tami Minnier, said all reports of errors or safety concerns at the network are tracked internally through a software program, and “anyone with a UPMC badge” can make a report. This includes custodians and cafeteria workers. “Sometimes they notice things no one else would,” Minnier said. A committee meets weekly to review the reports.

Daniel, co-author of the recent study, said the issue is not that healthcare systems don’t care or that doctors are trying to hide mistakes.


“The issue,” he said, “is that we haven’t been talking about this like heart disease or cancer or other preventable causes of death because it’s new.”


As the medical field expands and people interact with it more, more errors will happen. It’s one reason Daniel feels human error should be added as a category on death certificates; it would move the issue to the forefront of medical professionals’ minds and may lead to more safeguards to prevent common errors.


“We didn’t always have screenings for heart disease and cancer,” Daniel said, “but we realized the extent of the problems and started. We need to have similar systematic efforts against human error.”


Nick Keppler is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer who has written for Mental Floss, Vice, Nerve and the Village Voice. Reach him at

Survivalist gets probation for 8 Molotov cocktails


Molotov Cocktail

A Collier man claiming to be part of a New York survivalist group pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing eight Molotov cocktails in his home last December.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Jacob Leo Phillips IV, 24, to five months of probation.

Collier police joined agents from the ATF and FBI in serving a search warrant Dec. 8 on Phillips’ home, where they found the eight homemade fire bombs, according to the criminal complaint against Phillips.

The complaint said Phillips and his landlord said they were both members of the New York-based Minutemen Militia, though criminal defense attorney Steven Townsend said it was actually the “Watchmen,” which was more of a survivalist group than a militia.

“It’s not a proactive organization, more of a reactive one … He was in the infancy stages, just getting his feet wet with this group,” Townsend said. “He’s now severed all ties.”

The only training Phillips had with the Watchmen, Townsend said, was in CPR and first aid.

Phillips told police he’d only used one of the Molotov cocktails and that was in a backyard fire pit the year before. But police said he had no license to make or possess them, and keeping them in a residential neighborhood was reckless.

Police charged Phillips with eight felony counts of unlawfully possessing or manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as well as a risking a catastrophe charge and eight misdemeanor counts of making an offensive weapon.

As part of his plea, prosecutors reduced the weapons of mass destruction charges to misdemeanor possession of incendiary devices, to which Phillips pleaded guilty. The other charges were withdrawn.

Townsend said the case was “overcharged” as WMD, since the law for incendiary devices specifically covers Molotov cocktails.

Phillips also had legally-owned firearms, ammunition, body armor and a cache of food and water in the home. Townsend said that under federal law, Phillips is now barred from possessing the guns and is in the process of determining how he will sell or transfer them. The items remain in the custody of police until such arrangements are made.


Supreme Court Strikes Down Strict Texas Abortion Law

Supreme Court
Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Strict Abortion Law Stricken

By: Pete Williams

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down one of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women’s groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to shut down.

The decision was 5-3.

Passed in 2013, the law said clinics providing abortion services must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And it required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Since the law was passed, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas dropped to 19 from 42. Opponents said that number would fall to ten if the Supreme Court upheld the law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called the law “an absolute sham,” arguing that abortion patients rarely require hospitalization and that many patients simply take two pills.

  • Abortion Rights Advocate: ‘Women Across America Constitutional Rights Vindicated’ 

Justice Stephen G. Breyer in writing the majority opinion said “neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

Breyer was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Anthony M. Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented.

In writing his dissent, Alito said “The Court favors petitioners with a victory that they did not have the audacity to seek.”

“If anything, when a case involves a controversial issue, we should be especially careful to be scrupulously neutral in applying such rules,” Alito wrote. “The Court has not done so here. On the contrary, de­termined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases.”

Thomas in his own strident dissent criticized what he sees as “the Court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue’.”

Pro-choice advocates dance outside the Supreme Court where justices are weighing a case that imposes heavy restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas on June 26. JIM LO SCALZO / EPA

Surgical patients undergo a ten-minute procedure without general anesthesia in the outpatient setting of a doctor’s office or clinic, the group said, and complications from abortion are extremely rare.

Texas defended the restrictions, saying that states have wide discretion to pass laws in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty. The state said the law was passed “to ensure patient safety and raise standards of care.”

The court’s decision will affect similar laws in twelve other states, some now on hold because of court challenges. The restrictions in Texas represented a new front in efforts to restrict abortion by focusing on protecting the health and safety of the mother rather than the life of the fetus.

Wide-shot of courtroom on last day of opinions, 2015-16 Term. Art Lien

At the heart of the case was the standard for assessing abortion limits first announced by the Supreme Court in 1992. State laws cannot create an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus attains viability, it said then.

A law imposes such a burden, the court said in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, if its “purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path” of a woman seeking to exercise that right.

Planned Parenthood celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that these dangerous provisions have been struck down,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “This is a win for women. Every person must have the right to make their own personal decisions about abortion, and we will fight like hell to ensure they do.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton weighed in on the ruling via Twitter saying the decision “is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality.”

Police: Use of Excessive Force

Another example of using Excessive Force


Pittsburgh police sergeant seen in controversial Heinz Field arrest video fired


The city has fired Pittsburgh police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, who was suspended after the violent arrest of an allegedly intoxicated man during the WPIAL football championships at Heinz Field. Wednesday, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich upheld an earlier decision by Police Chief Cameron McLay that Matakovich had appealed.


Matakovich is out of his job, but he has one last avenue to try to win it back.

VIDEO: Watch Bob Mayo’s report

“We have faith in both Sgt Matakovich’s criminal defense attorneys as well as the criminal justice system. The FOP will continue the internal process, which is arbitration at this point,” police union local President Howard McQuillan told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.


Attorney Bryan Campbell, who represents the FOP, believes the union can win back Matakovich’s job.


“He wants to remain on the department. He’s been on the department for a long time. He’s a very responsible supervisor, he’s well-liked by the officers,” Campbell said.


Matakovich also faces re-filed criminal charges for his conduct captured on Heinz Field security video. Charges of simple assault and official oppression were dismissedby a district judge at Matakovich’s preliminary hearing Feb. 1. The district attorney’s office later refiled those charges, along with a felony count of perjury. The charges were filed after Matakovich was seen on surveillance video striking Gabriel Despres, then 19, during an arrest on charges of trespass, public drunkenness and underage drinking Nov. 28.


Campbell says the union can argue the firing is not for just cause and is not warranted by Matakovich’s history.


“It’s the FOP’s position that, one, no discipline should have been given here, and secondly, even if there was to be discipline, it wouldn’t rise to the level of a termination.”


“It is solely related to an incident that he himself was involved in, and the choices he made in that encounter. This is the consequence of that choice,” said Elizabeth Pittinger,executive director of the city’s Citizens Police Review Board.


The CPRB is an independent watchdog agency that was created by voters in a referendum.


“That’s not the way Pittsburgh police officers are expected — or now, it’s been re-enforced, will not be permitted —  to conduct themselves in the name of the city,” Pittinger said. “The situation reflected so poorly on all the rest of  the officers that are out there doing their job properly with compassion every single day.”


Some Matakovich supporters have set up a GoFundMe webpage to raise money to help his family.


“I can understand why a lot of officers would want to contribute because Sgt. Matakovich is a popular person,” Campbell said.


The GoFundMe page claims “he was recently caught up in the mass hysteria that is the anti-police movement in this country.”


“Hardly. He got caught up in his own conduct.,” responded Pittinger. “A police officer conducting himself in an extremely unbecoming manner, so much so that it resulted in criminal charges. That’s not mass hysteria or anti-police. It’s anti-bullying and it’s anti-excessive force.


“He’s a very responsible supervisor, he’s well-liked by the officers, they feel that they feel safe working for him. They feel that he has very good judgment and that this is unwarranted,” Campbell said.


“At the direction of my legal counsel, I am not making any statements and will not give any interviews,” Matakovich told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.


Even with a request to expedite the appeal, it could be 45 days before an arbitration appeal hearing for Matakovich.


He faces a complicated path ahead, dealing with both the Police Bureau action and the criminal charges, noted Pittinger. “It’s an unfortunate situation all around. There are no winners here. Unfortunately, Stephen Matakovich made some decisions in November that have resulted in this outcome. He’s no longer a Pittsburgh police officer.”


Juvenile – life sentence for murder wins high court reprieve


Juvenile Lifers

WASHINGTON — Juvenile –  The Supreme Court offered a chance for freedom Monday to hundreds of convicted juvenile murderers given mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles.

The justices ruled 6-3 that child killers locked away for life as long as a half century ago deserve the same consideration as those under 18 who commit murders today. The court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution.

The decision means that as many as 1,500 prisoners, some convicted when they were as young as 13, can seek reduced sentences or apply for parole. States retain the right to uphold life sentences, but they no longer can be mandatory.

Most of those affected are consolidated in a few states — notably Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes some of them committed decades ago when they were teenagers.


“Allowing those offenders to be considered for parole ensures that juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity — and who have since matured — will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s 6-3 majority. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s liberal bloc.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Scalia said the decision, while preserving states’ ability to declare a prisoner “incorrigible” and deserving of his sentence, was “a devious way of eliminating life without parole for juvenile offenders.”

“In Godfather fashion, the majority makes state legislatures an offer they can’t refuse: Avoid all the utterly impossible nonsense we have prescribed by simply ‘permitting juvenile homicide offenders to be considered for parole,'” Scalia wrote. “Mission accomplished.”


The case focused on 69-year-old Henry Montgomery, who murdered a deputy sheriff in Louisiana in 1963 while playing hooky from school. He was 17 at the time and was sentenced to death before having his fate reduced to life without parole in 1970. After being sent to the state penitentiary at Angola, one of the most dangerous in the country, Montgomery helped start a boxing team, worked in the silkscreen department and counseled other inmates.

“Henry Montgomery has spent each day of the past 46 years knowing he was condemned to die in prison,” Kennedy said. While the state still can attempt to show that he deserves that fate, Kennedy added, “prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”

The case is a logical extension of the high court’s juvenile justice jurisprudence. In 2005, it barred the death penalty for those whose crimes were committed before they turned 18. In 2010, it prohibited life without parole for crimes other than homicides. Then in 2012, it blocked all future mandatory life sentences, even for murder.

Since then, it’s been left to state courts or legislatures to decide whether the mandatory sentences of those previously locked away for life should be reconsidered. Hundreds of them were imprisoned in the 1980s and ’90s, when the battle against juvenile crime peaked; some date back to the 1950s.  Fourteen state supreme courts have said the 2012 ruling applies retroactively. Seven others, as well as four federal appeals courts, have said it does not.

Mark Plaisance, who argued Montgomery’s case, called the verdict “just the first step in a long process for Mr. Montgomery.”

“Today’s decision simply provides an opportunity for review,” he said. “It is our hope that state courts will now follow the lead of our highest court and the majority of other states around the country and give those convicted of crimes as youth a chance to become productive citizens.”

USA Today



Don’t underestimate the consequences of SEXTING

Call or text Steven C. Townsend for a FREE CONSULTATION. 412-901-7352

A conviction for teen sexting or child pornography can have extremely serious consequences. If you or your child is charged with such a crime as a result of teen sexting, you should contact Pittsburgh Attorney Steven C. Townsend, He has the experience handling these types of cases in juvenile and criminal court. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with appropriate legal advice and inform you of the potential consequences of a conviction, including under what circumstances juvenile defendants may be required to register as sex offenders. Steven C. Townsend can tell you what to expect in court and help to you prepare the strongest possible defense.

Sexting is the sending of nude or suggestive photographs by text message, and, when teenagers do it, it can be illegal. Pennsylvania lawmakers have enacted a specific law that makes teen sexting a crime, but a less serious one than child pornography. However, depending on the circumstances, teen sexting could also be considered child pornography or obscenity.

Prior to the enactment of Pennsylvania’s teen sexting law, one case there received a lot of media attention. School officials discovered that students had been exchanging photos of nude and scantily clad teen girls and notified the local District Attorney. He met with the parents of the girls depicted in the photos and told them that the girls would have to participate in a diversionary program or face charges for possessing and distributing child pornography. The girls’ parents refused the diversion program, noting that the photos (one featuring a topless girl and another depicting two girls in their bras) were not pornographic and that the girls were the victims of someone else distributing the pictures. After the families sued, a federal court found that the proposed diversion program violated the girls’ and their parent’s constitutional rights and granted a restraining order to stop the prosecutor from pressing charges against the girls.

(Miller v. Skumanick, 605 F. Supp. 2d 634, 647 (M.D. Pa. 2009), aff’d sub nom. Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139 (3d Cir. 2010).)


Teen sexting. Teen sexting cases are often handled in juvenile court, where judges typically have greater discretion as to the outcome than they do in adult criminal court. Teens who possess images of other teens or who share images of themselves can be convicted of summary offenses. Summary offenses are punishable by up to 90 days in a jail and a fine of up to $300. The court may refer the teen to a diversionary program that includes an educational program about the consequences of sexting. If the teen successfully completes the program, the charges are expunged.

Sharing a teen sext depicting another person is a misdemeanor of the third degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and no more than $2,500 in fines. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree (punishable by up to two years’ incarceration and no more than $5,000 in fines) for a teen to share a sext of another teen without permission and in order to harass the child depicted. Under the teen sexting law, any cell phone or electronic communication device involved can be forfeited (taken by the state without compensation to the owner).

Non-Compete Clause Invalid


Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Non-Compete Clause: not always what is seems

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court once again showed its disfavor of Non-Compete clauses in the workplace.  The Non-Compete line of cases is lengthy in Pennsylvania and the courts have consistently held the employer to a very strict burden.  

This case demonstrates that the language of the Uniform Written Obligations Act does not supersede the requirements of a Non-Compete Clause. bigo live apk Simply placing the “magic language” of being legally bound into an Non-Compete agreement will not suffice as consideration.

“In this appeal by allowance, we consider an issue of first impression: whether the enforcement of an employment agreement containing a restrictive covenant not to compete, entered into after the commencement of employment, may be challenged by an employee for a lack of consideration, where the agreement, by its express terms, states that the parties “intend to be legally bound,” which language implicates the insulating effect of the Uniform Written Obligations Act (“UWOA”).  In light of our Commonwealth’s long history of disfavoring restrictive covenants, and the mandate that covenants not to compete entered into after the commencement of employment must be accompanied by new and valuable consideration — a benefit or change in employment status — we conclude an employee is not precluded from challenging such an agreement executed pursuant to the UWOA. Thus, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.”

Ex-Coraopolis police chief pleads guilty in crash that seriously injured him, other driver

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By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Coraopolis police chief Alan DeRusso, who pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a crash he caused last year that seriously injured another driver, has no memory of the incident, his attorney said.

“This is the main reason why he decided to plead guilty,” lawyer Steven C. Townsend said. “Due to the severity of the accident, he basically lost memory from two weeks prior to the accident to a week after. He doesn’t remember anything.”

Mr. DeRusso, 56, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person. As part of the plea deal, the Allegheny County district attorney’s office agreed to drop one felony count of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle. Sentencing is set for Jan. 28 before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani.

The crash occurred at 8:14 a.m. Aug. 7, 2014, at Route 51 and Thorn Run Road in Moon. Moon police said Mr. DeRusso’s unmarked police vehicle ran a red light and struck a woman’s vehicle, which had a green light as it crossed the intersection.

The driver of that vehicle, Kristy Grazier, lost her appendix and 17 inches of her intestine, had a concussion, a chipped vertebrae and had a broken skull bone.

Mr. DeRusso was charged in January. A police affidavit said the chief was driving 80 mph three seconds before the crash, though Mr. Townsend said the vehicle had slowed to about 50 mph by the time of impact. Investigators wrote that they found no evidence that Mr. DeRusso was responding to an emergency.

Mr. Townsend said his client does not remember where he was headed.

Mr. DeRusso, who has been on administrative leave since January and is receiving workers’ compensation, submitted a letter Thursday taking early retirement immediately.

Mr. Townsend said his client apologized in court to Ms. Grazier, a single mother with two children.

“Will I ever be able to drive through an intersection without hesitation again?” Ms. Grazier wrote in a victim-impact statement. “I’m hoping that another person will never have to go through an ordeal like this again because of someone’s irresponsibility.”

Cases moved to juvenile court for teens accused of multi-state crime spree


A hearing was held Friday for two Ohio teenagers accused of going on a multi-state crime spree in June that included a robbery in Elizabeth. 

Rose May, 15, and Triston Kindle, 16, appeared before a judge and learned that their cases will be moved to juvenile court.

“Having them transferred Lucky Patcher latest APK Downloadback to the juvenile court is significant so they can get into some kind of treatment, for rehabilitation vs. punitive consequences in criminal court,” said Steve Townsend, May’s attorney. 

The teenagers are accused of committing multiple crimes in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Police said the spree started in Ohio, where the teens stole guns and a truck. They then made their way to Pennsylvania, where they were allegedly behind a robbery during which an officer was dragged by a vehicle at a BP gas station in Elizabeth. The duo eluded authorities for several days before surrendering in West Virginia. 

Townsend said it was bad decision making on May’s part.  “There really is no explanation. She has no explanation. She’s 15, she’s very impressionable,” he said. “What they did was unbelievable. She has no prior history with law enforcement or trouble in school, so there was no rhyme or reason why she was involved in this crime spree.”

 May has been at a juvenile detention center, and Kindle had been in the Allegheny County Jail.

When the judge asked Kindle how the jail had been, Kindle said he didn’t like it. Both teenagers are now in a juvenile detention center.  A hearing in juvenile court is scheduled Tuesday for Kindle and May.