Prospective clients often ask me about the statistical possibility of being heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  I typically tell them that the likelihood of being heard is remote.  In 2011, the court received 2,363 petitions and granted only 101.  That figure is somewhat misleading because in calendar year 2011, the court granted some petitions filed in previous years.  At the end of 2011, it had not yet considered 1,013 petitions, some of them filed prior to January 1, 2011.  However, the numbers are fairly consistent across the years.  In 2010, the court received 2,282 allocatur petitions and granted 104.  In 2009, it received 2,420 allocatur petitions and granted only 86. Therefore, any given petition has a less than 5% chance of being granted.

These figures do not tell the whole story because the court grants allowance of appeal in far more criminal cases than in civil cases. My review shows that in 2012, in addition to a handful of summary grants/remands, it granted allocatur in 30 civil cases.  I culled the following cases from LEXIS—which may not have reported everything—in an attempt to get some sense as to the types of cases the court has agreed to consider:



Octave v. Walker, 58 A.3d 753 discovery, privilege issue concerning mental health records


Bricklayers of W. Pa. Combined Funds v. Scott’s Dev. Co., 58 A.3d 748 mechanics lien


Vanderhoff v. Harleysville Ins. Co., 55 A.3d 1056 Uninsured motorist- phantom vehicle, late report, prejudice


Horton v. Wash. County Tax Claim Bureau, 55 A.3d 1054 tax sale procedure


E.A.R.A. v. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 55 A.3d 1048 sex abuse


Howard v. A.W. Chesterton Co., 55 A.3d 1046, 1045 asbestos


Roethlein v. Portnoff Law Assocs., 53 A.3d 1317 real estate tax, usury


City of Philadelphia v. Philadelphia Transload & Logistics, LLC, 53 A.3d 1316 statute of limitations municipal gas lien


Pa. Nat’l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. St. John, 53 A.3d 1316 insurance trigger issue


Garman v. Heine, 52 A.3d 223 malpractice tolling; discovery rule issue


Barrick v. Holy Spirit Hosp. of the Sisters of the Christian Charity, 52 A.3d 221 whether there is a privilege for communications between expert and trial counsel


Cruz v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Kennett Square Specialties), 51 A.3d 183 workers’ comp; undocumented worker


Osprey Portfolio, LLC v. Izett, 51 A.3d 181 statute of limitations in contract case


 Meyer v. Cmty. College of Beaver Cty., 51 A.3d 177 UTPCPL case


Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. v. PUC, 50 A.3d 123 public utility code


Comella v. GGNSC Mt. Lebanon, L.P., 2012 Pa. LEXIS 1553 choice of arbitral forum


Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 47 A.3d 1174 class action evidence issue


Cozzone v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Pa. Municipal/East Goshen T…, 46 A.3d 1286 workers comp; reinstatement, penalty issues


Passarello v. Grumbine, 44 A.3d 654, 656 medical malpractice — error of judgment rule


Levy v. Senate of Pa., 44 A.3d 1146 attorney/client, right to know issues


Herd Chiropractic Clinic, P.C. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 43 A.3d 478 automobile insurance, first party benefits, attorney fees


Dorsey v. Redman, 42 A.3d 1001 political subdivision tort claims act – immunity


Lipsky v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 41 A.3d 1288 automobile insurance coverage


PPM Atl. Renewable v. Fayette County Zoning Bd., 41 A.3d 854 zoning


Butler v. Charles Powers Estate, 41 A.3d 854 mineral rights, Marcellus shale case


Castellani v. Scranton Times, L.P., 41 A.3d 852 evidence: judicial notice


Stuckley v. Zoning Hearing Bd., 39 A.3d 992 zoning


Wayne M. Chiurazzi Law, Inc. v. MRO Corp., 39 A.3d 267 medical records act – costs, etc.


Brown v. Levy, 38 A.3d 768 prisoner civil litigation


Pulse Techs., Inc. v. Notaro, 36 A.3d 1096 employment contract, restrictive covenants

These represent a broad array of issues and facts: four insurance coverage cases, a sprinkling of evidence issues, a few workers’ compensation cases, a smattering of zoning appeals, etc. It is difficult to determine if the court set out in advance to find a wide assortment from the world of civil litigation or if it just turned out that way.

So how to advise clients?  I typically explain that even if there is an “agenda” governing the allocatur process, it is inscrutable and mysterious.  If the Court has recently decided a series of evidence issues, it may not be in the mood to tackle another.  Or maybe it will. There’s no way to know.  One might be able to persuade the court to weigh in on an issue that lower courts have treated inconsistently to sow clarity in the face of confusion.  Unless, of course, the court has other more pressing issues on its plate.


And who said life isn’t arbitrary?