May 7, 2022

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Appellate Court”) stated in its opinion dated January 26, 2022: “the Medical Defendants contend that the trial court erred in overruling their preliminary objection seeking dismissal of all claims for compensatory damages. The Medical Defendants argue that Mother is barred from recovery under Pennsylvania’s felony rule, which precludes convicted felons from collecting damages that would not have resulted absent the criminal conviction. We agree with the Medical Defendants.”

The Underling Facts

The mother of a confessed murderer, acting as the murderer’s power of attorney, alleged that several medical defendants are liable for negligent psychiatric treatment that they provided to her son in the months leading up to the murders he committed. The medical defendants filed preliminary objections seeking dismissal of the mother’s amended complaint, which the trial court sustained in part and overruled in part. The parties filed petitions for permission to appeal from this order, which the Pennsylvania Appellate Court granted.

The Pennsylvania Appellate Court held that the “no felony conviction recovery” rule articulated in Holt v. Navarro, 932 A.2d 915 (Pa. Super. 2007) precludes all of Mother’s demands for monetary recovery. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety.

The Pennsylvania Appellate Court explained: “The “no felony conviction recovery” rule enunciated in Holt v.
Navarro, 932 A.2d 915 (Pa. Super. 2007), “applies to discourage courts from assisting convicted felons in collecting damages that would not have occurred absent the criminal conviction.” Id. at 920 (citing, inter alia, Mineo v. Eureka Sec. Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 125 A.2d 612 (Pa. Super. 1956)). Holt explains that this rule is a “common law principle that a person should not be permitted to benefit by his own wrongdoing, particularly his own crimes, [and it] prevents a plaintiff from recovering losses which flowed from those criminal acts.” Id.”

The Pennsylvania Appellate Court held in the case it was deciding: “Based on our review of the amended complaint in the light most favorable to Mother, along with Son’s convictions for first-degree murder, we hold that the amended complaint fails to state a valid claim for compensatory damages pursuant to the “no felony conviction recovery” rule … the amended complaint expressly links Son’s compensatory damages to murders for which he has been convicted and sentenced. Under the “no felony conviction recovery” rule articulated in Holt and Mineo, these alleged damages are not actionable because they flow from his own criminal conduct for which he has been convicted. It is obvious that the “no felony conviction recovery” rule not only applies in cases of felonies but also in cases such as this, where the individual commits the even more heinous offense of murder.”

Source Dinardo v. Kohler, 2022 PA Super 14.

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