Burns White


1st Quarter | April 2023

The Burns White O’Neal Team is excited to present a new edition of the Torts Illustrated Quarterly Newsletter.

Our goal is to keep our clients and colleagues informed about the latest opinions from Pennsylvania state and federal courts that may be relevant to them. If there are any specific areas of interest that you would like us to cover in our future editions, please let us know. We are excited to showcase the legal developments of the Commonwealth as they unfold.

Recent Case Summaries

Autopsy, Cremation & the Spoliation of Evidence in Wrongful Death Cases

Article by Courtney Barbacane, Esq.

What happens when an autopsy is performed, in anticipation of litigation, and the body is subsequently cremated? Regardless of whether the autopsy is performed by a county coroner or an independent pathologist, I would argue that cremation of the body is tantamount to the intentional destruction of evidence in a wrongful death case.

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Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Holds That “Cause of Death” Refers Specifically to Medical Cause of Death Under MCARE

Article By Kenneth Rafferty, Esq.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the phrase “cause of death” refers specifically to medical cause of death, as that phrase is used in Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (“MCARE”) § 513(b), stating that actions for wrongful death or survival must be commenced within two years after death in absence of fraudulent concealment of cause of death. Reibenstein v. Barax, 286 A.3d 222 (Pa. 2022).

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How Delays from the Pandemic are Changing the Landscape for Relief in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits and Putting a Strain on Insurers

Article by Mark Derner, Esq.

The cogs of justice in our society move very slowly, even more so with the fallout from a global pandemic. The court system is playing catchup with an increasingly backlogged court docket. Cases filed before the covid-19 pandemic have been held up as court dockets halted and jury trials were postponed due to covid. The delay means more time between the events at issue and the plaintiff’s day in court. As a result, many health systems are shouldering higher medical malpractice burdens than what they might otherwise expect.  

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Healthcare Providers – Legally Immune from COVID?

Article by Michelle Kaminski, Esq.

This research was conducted in regard to civil immunity in professional liability actions, secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes an introductory analysis of the May 6, 2020 Executive Order (“EO”) and the PREP Act. In short, the EO signed by then–PA Governor, Tom Wolf, protected certain health care providers from civil suits relating to treatment provided between May 6, 2020 and June 10, 2021. 

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Meet the Authors

Stuart O'Neal

Stuart's Bio

Courtney Barbacane

Courtney's Bio

Mark Derner

Mark's Bio

Michelle Kaminski

Michelle's Bio

Kenneth Rafferty

Ken's Bio

The Burns White Healthcare & Long-Term care practice group assists healthcare providers in exploring ways to reduce the risk of exposure to future claims, find ways to prevent stressful and costly litigation, and if necessary, with representation in the courtroom. 

The team is also highly experienced at handling healthcare business transactions and relationships while complying with regulatory standards and requirements.