John is the chair of the firm's ten-attorney Appellate Advocacy and Post-Trial Practice Group. He has litigated more than 300 appeals in state and federal appellate courts. As litigation counsel, John represents corporations, insurers, and individuals in a diverse array of civil litigation and some criminal litigation. He also regularly serves as appellate counsel on trial teams in high-exposure cases. As amicus curiae counsel, John has represented a diverse clientele, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and a national group of university professors who study sex crimes and their impact on victims.
John has an AV Preeminent (5.0/5.0) rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating for professional competence. Every year since 2008, John has been recognized by Law & Politics/Philadelphia Magazine as a Super Lawyer in the area of appellate practice, a distinction applied to five percent of Pennsylvania attorneys based on a peer selection and evaluation process. He is also one of ten Pennsylvania attorneys currently elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers.
John is actively involved in bar association and related activities. He regularly speaks on appellate topics, is an appointed member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee, serves as co-chair of the amicus curiae committee of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, and formerly served on the Board of Governors of the Bar Association of the Third Federal Circuit.
Along with former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Patrick Tamilia, John was commissioned by the Superior Court in 1995 to author a comprehensive history of the Court to commemorate its Centennial Anniversary. The book, entitled Keystone of Justice: The Pennsylvania Superior Court, 1895-1995, was published by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2000 and is one of the nation's leading studies of a state appellate court.
John is regularly called upon by the media to provide insight and commentary on significant legal cases and issues. To view recent articles in which John is quoted, scroll down to the Media Commentary section below.
Significant Representative Matters
In a case in which John filed an amicus curiae brief for the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously upheld the reversal of a multimillion dollar verdict against an electric company on the basis that the plaintiff had not satisfied the "retained control" exception to the general rule of nonliability for independent contractors. Nertavich v. PPL Electric Utilities, No. 21 EAP 2015 (Pa. 2015).
By a vote of 6-0, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a judgment as a matter of law for John's clients, a Pennsylvania police department and a police officer, and held that police owe neither a statutory nor a common law duty to unknown passengers in fleeing vehicles. The plaintiff had been killed during a high speed pursuit. The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police, The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, and the Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs joined together as amici curiae to support John's position in the Supreme Court. Sellers v. Township of Abington et al., 2014 Pa. Lexis. 3463 (December 29, 2014).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court, sitting en banc, vacated a $14.5 million verdict and remanded for a new trial based upon the erroneous admission of expert testimony and prejudicial statements by opposing counsel. Nelson v. American Standard, et al., 2014 Pa. Super. 286 (Pa. Super., December 23, 2014)(en banc).
By a vote of 7-0, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court and the trial court and ruled that John’s client, a general contractor, was immune from suit under Pennsylvania’s statutory employer doctrine. The ruling nullified a large verdict against the general contractor. Twenty-one construction and insurance industry groups joined together as amici to support John’s appeal to the Supreme Court. Patton v. Worthington Associates, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 788 (March 26, 2014).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court dismissed a highly-publicized death case filed against John's client in Pennsylvania based upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens under Pennsylvania's long-arm statute, 42 Pa.C.S. § 5322(e). Jones v. Morey's Pier Inc., No. 2990 EDA 2012 (March 10, 2014)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ordered the transfer of 18 asbestos cases out of Philadelphia to a more appropriate venue based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Stettler v. Allied Signal et al., 795 EDA 2012 (Pa. Super., January 21, 2014)
In its second ruling in the case in two years, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Superior Court's reversal of a trial court finding that an insurer was not prejudiced by the insured's failure to report a phantom vehicle within the 30-day time limit set forth in the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1702. The Supreme Court held that an insured reasonably can be expected to alert the insurer of the phantom vehicle within a month's time and, while an insurer cannot deny coverage absent prejudice cause by late notice, showing such prejudice does not require proof of what the insurer would have found had timely notice been provided. Vanderhoff v. Harleysville Insurance Co., 2013 Pa. Lexis 2581 (Pa. 2013).
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc and deciding an issue of first impression, held that a school district and its assistant principal were properly granted summary judgment because students’ allegations of bullying against other students did not establish a special relationship or state-created danger that must exist before a constitutional duty to protect arose under Fourteenth Amendment. Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160 (3d Cir. 2013).
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that, even if medical treatment provided to a prisoner constitutes medical malpractice, it does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution unless it results from deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s rights. Positano v. Wetzel, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 14020 (3d Cir. 2013).
In a case in which John filed an amicus curiae brief, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Pennsylvania Superior Court and held that a physician has no duty to warn and advise third-party non-patients of a patient's communicable disease. Seebold v. Prison Health Servs., Inc., 57 A.3d 1232 (Pa. 2013).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court's transfer of venue under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, the first such decision by a Pennsylvania appellate court in nine years. Stoner v. Penn Kleen, 2012 Pa. Super. 218, 2012 Pa.Super. LEXIS 2932 (Pa. Super. 2012).
In a case of first impression, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a putative class action against John's client, a national manufacturer of automobile anti-theft systems, and held that the client was not liable under the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act, which permits a broad array of damages for violations of any federal or state consumer protection law, because its warranty did not violate any clearly established right under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. McGarvey v. Penske Auto Group, Inc., et al., 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 13450 (July 2, 2012).
In the first Pennsylvania decision addressing the recoverability of attorneys' fees on a jury's award of future medical expenses under the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act, the Court held that such fees are paid out of, not in addition to, the award of future medical expenses, after reduction to present value. This ruling substantially reduced the value of a claim against John's client. Sayler v. Skutches, 2012 PA Super 23, 2012 Pa. Super. LEXIS 25 (Pa. Super., February 6, 2012).
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court vacated a large judgment against John's client, a township, and remanded for the entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict, on the basis that the trial evidence failed to demonstrate that the township was responsible for the decedent's death. Rahman v. Falls Township, 2012 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 126 (Pa.Cmwlth., January 6, 2012).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court and awarded a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, vacating a large verdict against John's client, a mutual insurance company, on the basis that the insurer's conduct in handling a fire damage claim did not constitute bad faith as a matter of law. Edkin v. Brethren Mutual Insurance Co., 1331 MDA 2009 (Pa. Super., February 4, 2011).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated an adverse jury verdict and remanded for a new trial in favor of John's client, one of the world's leading construction firms, in its claim for contractual indemnity. Skanska USA Buildings, Inc. v. Gory Mechanical Contractors, 345 EDA 2010 (Pa. Super., January 19, 2011).
In a decision reconciling two conflicting lines of cases, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court ruling that John's client, an insurer, had a duty to defend a lawsuit claiming that the intoxicated insured assaulted and attempted to kill the plaintiff before taking his own life. The central issue in the case was whether and to what extent allegations of intoxication can convert otherwise intentional conduct into an accident for purposes of securing insurance coverage. Addressing "tension" in the existing case law, the Court reasoned in its published decision that Pennsylvania public policy forbids the extension of insurance coverage to obviously intentional conduct and that allegations of intoxication can create a duty to defend only when the allegations indicate that the insured was so intoxicated that he lacked conscious awareness of his actions or lacked the ability to form intent. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co v. The Estate of Thomas Mehlman, 589 F.3d 105 (3d Cir., 2009).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court and upheld the dismissal of all claims against John's client, a law firm, on the basis that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations and the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Seawright v. Greenberg, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 9248 (3d Cir. 2007).
- The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court and remanded for the re-entry of judgment in favor of John's client, a nonprofit corporation that had entered into an agreement to buy real estate, on the basis that the trial court had erroneously stricken the judgment. Crystal Lake Camps v. Alford, 923 A.2d 482 (Pa. Super. 2007).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court and upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff's claims against John's clients, attorneys and their law firm, on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to prove the necessary element of causation. My Le Duong v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 27617 (3d Cir. 2006).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated a large verdict against John's client and remanded for a new trial on the basis that the jury should have been allowed to consider whether the plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Urbach v. Kentile, Inc., et al., 915 A.2d 159 (Pa. Super. 2006), appeal denied, 2007 Pa. LEXIS 1351 (Pa. 2007).
In the first comprehensive appellate decision interpreting Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3-1042.6, Pennsylvania's tort reform measure intended to increase the threshold of merit for professional liability actions, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court and remanded for the entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of John's client, a physician, based upon the plaintiff's failure to file a certificate of merit in support of his medical malpractice claim. O'Hara v. Randall, 879 A.2d 240 (Pa. Super. 2005).
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court, which entered judgment for John's client, that the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Phillies owed no duty to a spectator at a baseball game who was partially blinded when hit by a foul ball. Pakett v. The City of Philadelphia et al, 871 A.2d 304 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court and held that the plaintiff was not entitled to retry her claims against John's client, a hospital. Stalsitz v. Allentown Hospital, 814 A.2d 766 (Pa. Super. 2004).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court and dismissed the plaintiff's civil rights claims on the basis that John's clients, county officials, were entitled to absolute immunity from liability for actions taken in their official capacities. Laverdure v. County of Montgomery, 324 F.3d 123 (3d Cir. 2003).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the judgment of the federal district court and ruled that an ordinance passed by John's client, a Pennsylvania municipality, did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Philadelphia Owners Association v. City of Philadelphia et al, 57 Fed. Appx. 961 (3d Cir. 2003).
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed two lower courts and awarded a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, erasing a substantial judgment against John's client, a professional corporation, on the basis that the plaintiff's res ipsa loquitur theory of liability was invalid as a matter of law. Toogood v. Rogal, 824 A.2d 1140 (Pa. 2003).
In the first appellate decision interpreting and applying Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1006(a.1), Pennsylvania's tort reform measure involving venue, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court and held that the plaintiff's medical malpractice action against John's client, a physician, must be transferred out of Philadelphia County. Connor v. Crozer Keystone Health Sys., 832 A.2d 1112 (Pa. Super. 2003).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court and upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff's product liability claims against John's client, a manufacturer of scaffolding equipment, after a jury found that the manufacturer was not responsible for the construction accident that injured the plaintiff. Johnson v. Vanguard Manufacturing, 34 Fed. Appx. 858 (3d Cir. 2002).
- The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court and awarded a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, erasing a substantial judgment against John's client, a hospital, on the basis that, although the plaintiff had adduced some evidence to support her claims, the evidence was not sufficient to establish a prima facie case of negligence. Van Zandt v. Holy Redeemer Hospital, 806 A.2d 809 (Pa. 2002).
What Can We Learn from Nancy Raynor?, Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel, June 2015
Winning Your Case on Appeal, Pennsylvania Defense Institute, 45th Annual Conference, July 17-19, 2013
Winning (or Not Losing) Your Case on Appeal, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, May 2010
Appellate Mediation in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, December 2009
"Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant; Solutions to the Concealment of Asbestos Trust Filings in Tort Litigation," For The Defense, April 2016
"Uncloaking Bankruptcy Trust Filings In Asbestos Litigation: Refuting the Myths About Transparency," Mealey's Asbestos Bankruptcy Report and Mealey's Litigation Report Asbestos, April 2016
"Uncloaking Bankruptcy Trust Filings In Asbestos Litigation: A Survey Of Solutions To The Types Of Conduct Exposed In Garlock's Bankruptcy," Mealey's Asbestos Bankrupcty Report, August 28, 2015
“A New Product Liability Paradigm,” Defense Digest, Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2015
Case Law Alerts, contributor, 2012-present
"Protecting Their Own; The Power Of Administrative Agencies To Enforce Regulations Through Litigation," Defense Digest, May 2003
"The Legal Doctrines Of Waiver And Estoppel May Not Be Used To Expand The Scope Of An Insurance Policy To Cover Excluded Risks," Defense Digest, September 2002
"Defining 'Beneficiary' In A Wrongful Death Action Under The Pennsylvania Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association Act," Defense Digest, August 2001
"Pennsylvania Appellate News," Defense Digest, 2001-2008
Keystone of Justice: A History of the Pennsylvania Superior Court; 1895-1995, co-author with Hon. P. Tamilia, Superior Court of Pa., Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, January 2000
"Note, Freedom of the Press and the Right to a Fair Trial in Pennsylvania," 30 Duq.L.Rev. 760, 1992
"Justices' 'Abnormal' Requests Pose Legislative Challenges," The Legal Intelligencer, October 7, 2017
"Attorneys Agree Ban on Citing Nonprecedential Opinions is a Hurdle," The Legal Intelligencer, September 1, 2016
"The Biggest PA Appeals Court Decisions So Far in 2016," Law360, August 4, 2016
"Appellate Courts Prepare to Transition Interim Appointees," The Legal Intelligencer, July 11, 2016
"Zimmer Win May Force Harder Look at Runaway Verdicts," Law360, June 10, 2016
"'When in Doubt, Appeal' in Consolidated Cases," The Legal Intelligencer, May 31, 2016
"Superior Court's 2016 Output Low on Civil Rulings," The Legal Intelligencer, May 27, 2016
"Revamped PA High Court Looks To Make Mark on Tort Law," Law360, February 4, 2016
"Supreme Court Orders Reargument in 26 Cases From 2015," The Legal Intelligencer, January 22, 2016.
"Intermediate Courts Must Weather Vacancies," The Legal Intelligencer, January 9, 2016
"Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin Tearfully Apologizes, Defends Reputation in Porn Email Hearing," Allentown Morning Call, December 21, 2015
"Eakin, 'Bruno' and the State of Judicial Discipline in PA," The Legal Intelligencer, December 18, 2015
"JCB Faces Challenges in Proving Violations by Eakin," The Legal Intelligencer, December 11, 2015
"Litigants May Test High Court After Turnover," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, November 17, 2015
"Dems' PA High Court Sweep Could Shake Up Enviro, Tort Law," Law360, November 4, 2015
"Report: Supreme Court Should Defer to JCB on Eakin Emails," The Legal Intelligencer, November 3, 2015
"Zimmer Ruling Continues Pa. Justices’ Pro-Plaintiff Trend," Law360, October 28, 2015
"Lawyers Say Discipline, Not Removal, Likely for Eakin," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, October 20, 2015
"Rekindled Email Scandal Tests State Supreme Court, Again," The Legal Intelligencer, October 6, 2015
"Saylor's Comments Raise More Questions Over AG Kane's Fate," The Legal Intelligencer, September 30, 2015
"Fee Sanctions Must Be Filed Soon After Final Order," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, September 28, 2015
"Rule Changes Clear Up Legal Gray Area in Post-Trial Motions," Legal Intelligencer, July 14, 2015
"Raising Pa. Supreme Court Output Easier Said Than Done?," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, March 31, 2015
"Police Owe No Duty to Unknown Passengers in Fleeing Car," The Legal Intelligencer, January 5, 2015
"Pennsylvania Cases To Watch In 2015," Law360, January 2, 2015
"En Banc Superior Court Tosses $14.5M Asbestos Verdict," The Legal Intelligencer, December 29, 2014
"Pa. En Banc Panel Boots $14.5M Asbestos Verdict," Law360, December 24, 2014
"Collateral Order Appeals on the Rise in Pennsylvania," The Legal Intelligencer, (Dec. 12, 2014)
"Pa. Supreme Court Won't Take up Appeal of 18 Asbestos Cases," The Legal Intelligencer (Dec. 8, 2014)
"With Vacancies Looming, High Court Increases Productivity," The Legal Intelligencer (Dec. 2, 2014)
"Justices to Eye Philadelphia Asbestos Consolidation Procedure," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, (Nov. 18, 2014)
"Ford Appeal Could Aid Defendants In Philly Asbestos Cases," Law360, (Nov. 13, 2014)
"Wolf's Win Sets Stage For Pa. Supreme Court Shakeup," Law360, (Nov. 5, 2014)
“Pa. Porn Scandal Ups Pressure For Judicial Merit Selection,” Law360 (October 21, 2014)
“$20M Knee Injury Dispute Could Rejigger Pa. Tort Law,” Law360 (October 6, 2014)
“Parties Spar Over Tossed $14.5 Mil. Asbestos Verdict,” The Legal Intelligencer (August 12, 2014)
“After Quiet First Half, 4 PA High Court Cases To Watch,” Law360, July 16, 2014
“Pa. Ruling Limits Asbestos Claims In Construction Suits,” Law360, July 2, 2014
“Attorneys Shocked by Senate Proposal to Slash Judiciary,” The Legal Intelligencer, June 5, 2014
"Dive into PSU Sanctions Shows Breadth of Judicial Discretion," Pennsylvania Law Weekly, April 28, 2014
“PA. Supreme Court Reaffirms Statutory Employer Doctrine,” The Legal Intelligencer, March 31, 2014
“Pa. Appeals Court Won't Reconsider Asbestos Suits' Transfer,” Law360, March 31, 2014
“Pa. High Court Keeps Tort Immunity For General Contractors,” Law360, March 27, 2014
“Tardy Statement of Errors Causes Waiver of Appeal,” The Legal Intelligencer, March 17, 2014
“Pa. Court Says Amusement Park Death Suit Belongs in NJ,” Law360, March 12, 2014
“Are Appeals Courts Showing More Mercy for Procedural Errors,” The Legal Intelligencer, February 10, 2014
Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (J.D., 1993)
Law Review: Duquesne Law Review, Senior Editor
Princeton University (Completed Ph.D. Coursework, Legal History, 1999)
University of California, Berkeley (M.A., Legal History, 1998)
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (B.A, 1990)
Honors: magna cum laude
Past Employment Positions
Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Hon. Patrick R. Tamilia, Law Clerk, 1994 -1997
U.S. Marines, 1986 - 1990
- Princeton University (coursework completed for Ph.D., 1999)
- University of California, Berkeley (M.A., 1998)
- Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1993; Editor, Duquesne Law Review)
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania (B.A., magna cum laude, 1990)
- Pennsylvania, 1994
- U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania
- U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania
Associations & Memberships
- American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, Fellow, 2016
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Philadelphia Bar Association
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Civil Procedural Rules Committee 2015-2017
- Bar Association for the Third Federal Circuit
Honors & Awards
- AV® Preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell®
- Pennsylvania Super Lawyer, 2008-2016