Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto appears immovable on a controversial roughly $1 million sanction imposed on insurance defense lawyer Nancy Raynor after a witness discussed a bar subject in his testimony. Raynor insists that she told the witness not to discuss that a woman in the case was a smoker. Various witnesses have come forward to say that they heard Raynor give such instructions, but Panepinto has dismissed the new evidence and refused to budge on the sanction. Many lawyers are worried about the standard being set by the case since witnesses will sometimes stray in their testimony without any direction or knowledge of counsel.
The case involved a medical malpractice trial in 2012 in which the estate of Rosalind Wilson, who died of lung cancer, sued Roxborough Memorial Hospital and doctors, for malpractice.
Raynor appealed the $946,147 sanctions order and, in February, the appellate panel ordered Panepinto to reconsider the penalty after trial technician Joseph Chapman came forward with a sworn statement.
Panepinto rejected the new evidence of Chapman who testified in March that he overheard Raynor advise emergency room physician John Kelly that there could be no mention of the woman’s smoking. While other witnesses have supported Raynor, Panepinto dismissed the testimony as an attempted “alibi” and even added that “This court has a number of serious concerns about Chapman’s memory, and overall capacity for telling the truth.”
Panepinto’s refusal to rescind or remove the fine has left many lawyers worried about what the standard is for such sanctions — and what they need to show to rebut the allegations. Panepinto remains convinced that “Raynor’s conduct was orchestrated to improperly influence the outcome of the trial.”
I am not familiar with the record and Panepinto clearly believes that there was intent here. However, that would mean that these witnesses are lying. That is usually not something that a court finds without a very strong basis on the record.
Judge Paul P. Panepinto attended Villanova University and graduation in 1971. He received his Juris Doctorate from the Widener University School of Law in 1976. He was appointed as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1990. He was subsequently elected in 1991 and retained in 2001. Notably, Judge Panepinto was appointed to the Committee of Judicial Discipline from 2003 to 2007.