Harassment Charges in Berks County Dismissed – March 2020

Last month, Attorney Joel Ready obtained dismissal of harassment charges in Berks County. The charges had been filed against a defendant over an alleged dispute with an ex-girlfriend. After oral argument in front of a Berks County Magisterial District Judge, the charges were dropped completely. The charges were filed in the Bernville area “upon information received” by a State Trooper, which means that the Trooper was filing the charges based on what the alleged victim told him. 

“We’re glad to see these charges dismissed,” Attorney Ready says. “This case shows, once again, the importance of being prepared to fight charges and not merely plead guilty to avoid the trouble of litigation.” 

More About Harassment Charges

Harassment is a summary offense under Pennsylvania Law, which means that it comes with a fine and potential confinement up to ninety (90) days in prison. In some circumstances, harassment charges can also result in higher penalties, including a misdemeanor conviction. Harassment requires that the Commonwealth prove that the defendant either physically assaulted or repeatedly annoyed someone with no legitimate purpose.

Harassment charges do go on your permanent record, although, if they are a summary offense it is not considered a “criminal record.” Nonetheless, potential employers, family members, friends, neighbors and others can find that you were found guilty of these charges if you plead guilty to them.

Contact Us Today

It is important to speak with an experienced criminal offense attorney about harassment charges so the attorney can help you decide whether you should challenge the charges or not. Contact Cornerstone Law Firm today for more information.

Right of Partition

When you own land with someone else and you stop getting along with that person, what can you do? Especially when someone owns a large piece of investment property with someone else, it can be very difficult to figure out how to work with someone who doesn’t want to spend the money to keep the property up or who doesn’t have the same vision as you do for the future of the property. Here are two ways that you can handle a real estate dispute with a co-owner:

1. A Written Agreement Between the Parties

The most obvious and best way of approaching a problem like this is a written agreement with your co-owner that clearly lays out the responsibilities of each party. Whether the property is making money or not, a written agreement can help to clarify how much money each party is required to put into the property and how profits will be split up. 

You might think that a 50/50 agreement is the simplest way to handle something like this but often, it’s not. Perhaps one party is willing to make the financial investment into the property to clean it up or improve it, but expects a higher percentage of the returns in exchange. And what do you do if one party wants out during an up year for the property? How much do you have to pay them? Can one owner force the other to take a fair buy-out offer?

Drafting a clear agreement means thinking about possibilities that you may not want to consider, but in our experience, figuring this out now will save you pain and money down the line. Indeed, just having an agreement sometimes helps avoid breakups and keeps all parties involved happy with the investment that they’re making in the property.

2. A Partition Action

Unfortunately, many parties don’t start talking about these issues until a conflict has already arisen. If you’re in this boat, don’t panic! There is still a legal way to get out of the situation. In this case, you can either divide the property in two, or have a court order that it be sold and have the profits of the sale split between the owners.

How do you split a property in two? You can do this by reviewing the technical drawings for the buildings or property and agreeing to a line drawn through the property along an appropriate dividing line. In some cases, the parties can agree to give a valuable but small piece to one side and leave a larger but equally valuable piece to the other party. This process typically involves lawyers, appraisers, real estate agents, and brokers to find the proper balance.

But in many cases, the best remedy is for the parties to agree to sell the property. But what if the other party doesn’t want to sell? What if they think that the status quo is working out just fine? Or, what if vindictively, they just want to keep you from benefiting from the property?

In that case, you can petition a court for an order to sell the property in lieu of having it partitioned. In other words, if you prevail in proving that the property is not going to be usable or valuable if it’s split in two, you can have a court order the property sold the open market. At that point, they’ll usually come to the negotiating table. If they want to keep the property, they’ll have to put up fair market value for your half.

Trust an Experienced Real Estate Attorney with Your Concerns

If you have a problem like this with real estate, you should contact an experienced real estate attorney. Partition actions can be complicated, and there are many issues to consider. If you have questions about your situation, contact Cornerstone Law Firm, and let’s discuss how we can help you.

Berks County Defendant Found “Not Guilty” in School Bus Charge

This past January, Attorney Ready obtained a “not guilty” verdict for a client charged with running a school bus stop sign. The ruling came at the end of a summary trial, which was on appeal in the Court of Common Pleas in Reading, Pennsylvania. 

Violation of the school bus statute carries serious fines and, more importantly, a mandatory sixty (60) day license suspension from PennDOT. In this case, the defendant was convicted in the Magisterial District Court, and retained Cornerstone Law Firm to handle her appeal. On Monday, January 27, 2020, in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, the individual charged in this case was acquitted on all charges after a bench trial. 

Details of the Case

A major crux of this particular trial was the speed with which the “stop arm” extended on the bus, and what amount of time the driver had to stop since she was already passing the bus when the stop sign came out. In cross-examination of the bus driver, it was further revealed that the stop sign was put out at the last minute as the driver was already approaching and passing. Based on caselaw, Attorney Ready was able to demonstrate that the defendant in this case was not legally liable for passing the bus.

We’re Here to Help

Every case is different, and no one else’s results are a guarantee about your case. However, whether you are charged with traffic tickets or criminal charges in Berks County, Pennsylvania, it is important to have a litigation attorney who can help you.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, we help clients every single day with their criminal charges. Call us today for a consultation regarding your case and whether you would be best advised to go to trial, seek a plea agreement, or seek another resolution of your charges.

Cornerstone Law Firm in the Greater Reading Merchandiser

Cornerstone Law Firm is honored to serve the Berks County, Pennsylvania and beyond. We’re happy to solve your legal problems, even through the uncertainty and stress of the current coronavirus (COVID-19).

In this month’s Greater Reading Merchandiser, we’re sharing a little bit about ourselves and what we’re doing to make sure your legal needs are still met! Check out are ad:

april 2020 merchandiser

For more information about how we can serve you, contact us today!

What is the Common Fund Doctrine?

The “common fund doctrine” is an important equitable rule of law that personal injury attorneys employ to maximize an injured person’s overall recovery. When you have been injured in a car accident, a truck crash, or some other motor vehicle accident and your medical bills are paid by a health insurer, the common fund doctrine is likely to factor in your total financial recovery. 

In simple terms, in every personal injury case, the injured victims who has to retain an attorney ends up paying part of the recovery to that attorney in exchange for their services. The injured victim can usually deduct the same percentage from the reimbursement to medical providers.

What to Know about Common Fund Doctrine

When someone is injured, their health insurance often pays the bills after the Personal Injury Protection (PIP coverage) is exhausted. This creates a medical lien against the ultimate recovery of money as a result of the injury. So, do you have to pay the full amount of that lien? This is where the common fund doctrine comes in.

The common fund doctrine is a common law, equitable remedy that allows a court to diminish the share of the lien holder’s recovery by the percentage of that recovery that’s attributable to the attorney that brought about the financial recovery. 

We say this is equitable, meaning it is meant to be fair. The lien holders, who would not have been paid back without the attorney’s efforts, should also have to pick up part of the tab for that attorney’s work. As a result, somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of a medical lien can typically be written off and given directly back to the injured party in recognition of the fact that they’ve had to bear the cost of attorneys’ fees.

We can help

Dealing with medical liens is only one part of the complexity of a personal injury case. If you’ve been in a car accident, call the Cornerstone Law Firm and speak with one of our injury attorneys. We don’t get paid until you get paid, and we can offer you a free consultation on the likelihood of a recovery in your case.

February 2020 Recap

What were we up to in February 2020? Our attorneys have been working hard at settling cases and resolving conflicts on behalf of our clients. 

Attorney David Crossett

Attorney David Crossett has been working on a number of personal injury cases in Berk’s County, Pennsylvania. He is helping victims involved in car accidents to receive repayment of their medical bills, lost wages and compensation for their pain and suffering. Most of the personal injury cases he has worked on this month have been cases that are preparing settle based on a demand with the insurance company outside of court. Attorney Crossett also made national news last month, in this case representing Gerald Groff, a U.S. postal worker who is suing his former employer for violations of his first amendment rights. Attorney Crossett has also been deeply involved in a lawsuit in Bucks County over an insurance company refusing to pay for the enormous damage done to someone’s property when a truck ran into their house. 

Attorney Joel Ready

Attorney Joel Ready has resolved several criminal cases with favorable plea deals and another criminal case after a trial in front of a judge in Reading, Pennsylvania. Attorney Ready has also been advising one of our Section 8 Housing clients regarding complaints they’ve received about their facility. Finally, Attorney Ready has successfully settled a personal injury claim for an individual who was injured in a car accident located in the Reading area. 

That’s a quick glimpse at our work in the month of February. We hope you’ve had a great month as well. As always if you have questions about your legal concerns call us at Cornerstone Law Firm.

Representation in Federal Court

If you’ve been sued in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, there are a number of questions you will need to confront quickly. These questions include whether you were properly sued in the Eastern District, whether the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has “personal jurisdiction” over you in a lawsuit, and whether you have any counter-claims or defenses that you will need to raise in your first pleadings.

In federal court, if you have been served with a complaint you typically have only 21 days from the date of service to answer. If you waive service in advance, you will have longer to respond. 

Does Your Case Belong in Federal Court?

In addition to determining counterclaims and affirmative defenses available to you, an important question you should analyze is whether the case belongs in federal court rather than state court. Unlike state courts, federal courts are of limited jurisdiction, which means they can only handle cases specifically authorized by the Constitution and by Congress.

Whether the case you are involved in falls under those categories of cases authorized by Congress and the Constitution is a question requiring legal analysis that needs to be done immediately to determine whether the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claim. 

Choosing Your Next Steps

Additionally, like any other case, as a defendant, you need to decide up front whether you wish to fight the case and defend it on its merits or attempt to settle it and avoid the rising costs of defending a lawsuit. This decision can be difficult, but is made easier when you really understand the likelihood of your success in defending a case and the possible risks involved in losing it. This requires an exploration of the facts and law that gave rise to the lawsuit.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania is sometimes called the “rocket docket” because of the speed with which litigation moves and the promptness of trial dates. Most cases in the Eastern District are set for trial in less than a year from the date the suit is filed. This is remarkably fast for courts of any kind and makes the Eastern District of Pennsylvania one of the most fast-paced courts in the country. 

Contact Cornerstone Law Firm

Perhaps you have heard the expression, “Don’t make a federal case out of it.” This simple expression confirms one truth about federal cases—they are serious and shouldn’t be ignored.

If you have been sued in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, we welcome you to contact Cornerstone Law Firm. Contact us today for a consultation on your federal case:

Waiving Summons in Federal Court

When you have been sued in federal court, it is customary for the attorney who represents the plaintiff (the person suing you) to reach out to you by email or letter with a copy of a Waiver of Summons. An example of what this document looks like is provided below.

waiver of summons
Sample Waiver of Summons

A Waiver of Summons requests that you sign and accept the service of the Complaint, thus simplifying the process of bringing you in to court to be sued. So why would anyone do this? Why make it easier for the person trying to sue you? There are three good reasons why you should consider waiving service of the Complaint:

1. You have more time to answer

If you are served with a Complaint in federal court, you get only 21 days to answer the Complaint. This is a very quick turnaround, especially when you take into consideration the time it might take to find a litigation attorney you trust who can handle a federal case.

However, if you sign the Waiver of Summons, you get 60 days from the date the waiver was offered to you. With more than double the time to answer, you may also have the opportunity for other procedural maneuvers and even opportunities to resolve the case out of court before undertaking the expense of filing an answer or a motion to dismiss.

2. It costs less to waive summons

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, if you refuse to waive service, you are responsible for the cost of service. This can cost hundreds of dollars in some cases and that cost will ultimately be passed on to you, regardless of whether you win or lose the lawsuit. Compared to other litigation costs, this may not seem like much, but when you have the option to waive service and avoid this cost altogether, it certainly seems unnecessary.

3. You can avoid the embarrassment of personal service

Many people do not care about personal service and do not mind if a private process server shows up to hand them a complaint. However, if you run a business, and in many other circumstances, you may prefer not to be embarrassed in front of coworkers, friends, business associates, or relatives by service of the complaint and the announcement in front of those people that you have been sued in court.

Waiver of Summons allows you to avoid living under the constant fear of a process server arriving in your office or at your home, and announcing to everyone within earshot that you have a lawsuit in federal court against you.

To waive or not to wave?

With all that said, there are also some times that it is not wise to waive service of process. Although these situations are relatively rare, a good litigation attorney who handles cases in federal court can help you decide whether it is right to waive service or to force the other side to serve you with the process. And more important than this decision are the many decisions that will immediately follow.

Should you file an answer or a motion to dismiss? Should you be in discovery immediately or is a private, internal investigation the first step? These and a hundred other questions can be worked through with experienced litigation counsel.

Call Cornerstone Law Firm today if you have been sued in federal court to discuss your case and to see if one of our litigation attorneys can help you. 

Criminal Trial Attorneys in Berks County

If you are facing criminal charges in Berks County, Pennsylvania, you will find yourself facing several very important questions as you strategize how to handle your case. The chief among all these questions is whether you should go forward to a trial on your charges or accept a plea deal. If you decide to go to trial, finding a good trial attorney will be vital.

Why a Trial Lawyer is Important

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys have experience at all stages of trial work and stand ready and willing to take your case all the way to trial. Whether to go to trial on criminal charges is an important and personal decision and depends on many factors. Getting good advice on whether you should go forward to trial rather than taking a deal that has been offered is an important part of this process.

A good trial attorney is willing to cross-examine the government’s witnesses, will effectively present your case in a way that is understandable to the jury, and can help you make the all-important decision on whether to testify or not. At Cornerstone Law Firm, our attorneys can help you with these questions. 

Contact Cornerstone Law Firm

Whether you are in the midst of criminal charges or are at the beginning of a criminal case, we welcome your call to discuss your charges. Your first consultation with us is free and totally confidential. Call us today and see how we can help you.

Injunctions for Breach of Contract

Contracts are formed when two or more parties reach an agreement that involves an exchange of promises. When one party breaks their promise and fails to reform their obligation on their contract the other party to the contract often asks, “Can I seek an injunction requiring the other party to perform?”

Injunctions Court Orders Requiring Performance

An injunction is a court order that requires someone to refrain from doing something you don’t want them to do or requires them to do something that you want them to do. We’ve discussed injunctions elsewhere on the blog. However, it is important to know that injunctions are typically very difficult to get in contract cases, even in fairly extreme situations. Injunctions require an irreparable harm (that is, something other than monetary damages).

In other words, you have to be able to show a court that if the court doesn’t act, you will suffer damages that can’t be adequately compensated by money. In most situations involving a breach of contract, that is not possible. Rather, if a party breaks their promise, they can pay you the damages that theirs breach has caused you.

Damages

There are several different ways that you can measure how you have been financially damaged by someone’s failure to perform their agreement under a contract. The bottom line is the court will seek to place you in a position where you are made whole and put in the same position that you would have been in had the contract been performed. However, this doesn’t typically include repayment of your legal fees, the costs and frustration of finding a replacement party to perform the contract for you, nor anything for the sense of moral outrage that people often feel when a promise to perform under a contract is broken.

Conclusion

You may not be able to obtain an injunction regarding your contract, but this doesn’t mean that you should ignore the problem or not pursue it in court. Legal action regarding a breach of contract will often jolt the other party into action. At the very least, it will allow you to recover the damages you’ve incurred as a result of what’s happened.

At Cornerstone Law Firm, our litigation attorneys can help you analyze your case. Call today to discuss your situation and let us know how we can help you.