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Donnelly v. O'Malley & Langan

October 2, 2009

EDWARD W. DONNELLY, PLAINTIFF
v.
O'MALLEY & LANGAN, P.C., SARA A. WALSH, MARY ANNE O. LUCAS, GERARD W. LANGAN, JR., THOMAS J. GILBRIDE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge

(JUDGE VANASKIE)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Edward W. Donnelly, proceeding pro se, brings this action against the law firm and attorneys that represented him in a workers' compensation matter. Mr. Donnelly asserts Defendants breached their contract with him, and violated his right to privacy and other civil rights protected by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. On January 14, 2009, Mr. Donnelly filed an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. Entry 29.) Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Dkt. Entry 30.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion will be granted.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

The Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Donnelly contracted for legal services with O'Malley & Langan, P.C., and its attorneys (the "O'Malley Defendants") pursuant to a Contingency Fee Agreement.*fn2 (Am. Compl., Dkt. Entry 29, at 2.) It is alleged that the purpose of the contract for legal services was to represent Mr. Donnelly in Workers' Compensation Claim No. 3133868 before the Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Board against his employer, TRL, Inc. (Id. at 2 & 3.) The workers' compensation claim was resolved at a hearing on the record on July 12, 2007. (Hearing, Dkt. Entry 30-3, at 2.) At the hearing, Mr. Donnelly testified that he entered into a settlement agreement. (Id. at 8.) He accepted a lump-sum payment of $12,500, and expressed his understanding that he would not receive any more money from his employer or its insurance company. (Id. at 15-16, 18.)

Mr. Donnelly avers that the O'Malley Defendants failed to obtain critical pieces of evidence in connection with the workers' compensation proceeding in violation of the terms of the Contingency Fee Agreement. (Am. Compl., Dkt. Entry 29, at 2.) Specifically, Mr. Donnelly claims he told the O'Malley Defendants to not surrender his letter of resignation until the workers' compensation claim was completely resolved.*fn3 (Id.) Despite his request, the O'Malley Defendants allegedly submitted the letter of resignation to his employer's attorney, William E. Wyatt, Esquire, prior to the settlement agreement being signed, thereby preventing the claim from being entirely resolved. (Id. at 2 & 6.)

According to Mr. Donnelly, he should have had twenty days to void the settlement agreement. (Id. at 3.) After the submission of the letter of resignation, however, Mr. Donnelly avers that he was forced to accept the agreement, and as a result, is currently unemployed. (Id.)

Mr. Donnelly alleges that he terminated his representation by the O'Malley Defendants because they were negligent in providing legal services and failed to enforce the settlement agreement. (Id.) It is additionally alleged that the O'Malley Defendants obstructed the settlement check in an attempt to secure their representation of the "Petition for Penalties" phase of the claim. (Id.) Mr. Donnelly further alleges that the O'Malley Defendants illegally opened the envelope that contained the settlement check even though it was clearly addressed to him. (Id.) In allegedly throwing away the envelope, the O'Malley Defendants are charged with having withheld evidence from the "Petition for Penalties" phase of the workers' compensation matter.*fn4 (Id. at 4.)

The Amended Complaint alleges that the O'Malley Defendants used the settlement check to secure more business and failed "to do all lawful acts" required by the contract. (Id.) The O'Malley Defendants are also alleged to have continued to discuss the Workers' Compensation matter with others without authorization, thereby violating attorney/client privilege and the Contingency Fee Agreement. (Id.)

Count I of the Amended Complaint, labeled section B, asserts a claim for invasion of privacy. (Id. at 5.) It is alleged that the O'Malley Defendants obtained medical records and copies of documents and transcripts from the Department of Labor and Industry without authorization. (Id.) It is also alleged that the O'Malley Defendants disseminated confidential records and work product, and discussed the workers' compensation matter without authorization. (Id.) Mr. Donnelly further claims that the O'Malley Defendants had illegal contact with the Workers' Compensation Judge regarding the settlement check. (Id. at 5 & 6.)

Mr. Donnelly further alleges that the O'Malley Defendants had illegal communications with Cynthia L. Pollick, Esquire, in September of 2007 and February of 2008, and convinced Attorney Pollick not to take his case. (Id. at 6.) It is further alleged that the O'Malley Defendants had continued improper contact with Attorney Wyatt. (Id.) Mr. Donnelly claims he asked Workers' Compensation Judge Peleak for an Order of Protection so that the O'Malley Defendants would not contact Attorney Wyatt, but his request was allegedly denied. (Id.)

The Amended Complaint accuses Attorney Wyatt and the O'Malley Defendants of witness tampering. (Id. at 6-7.) Mr. Donnelly alleges that the O'Malley Defendants were motivated to tamper with witnesses because he did not hire them for the Petition for Penalties phase of the Workers' Compensation matter. (Id.)

Count II (labeled Section C) alleges Defendants violated Mr. Donnelly's civil rights in violation of "the Pennsylvania Constitution, Declaration of Rights, Section 1." (Id. 7-8.) Mr. Donnelly alleges his right to gainful employment was denied when the O'Malley Defendants willfully submitted his letter of resignation. (Id. at 8.) This action by the O'Malley Defendants allegedly left Mr. Donnelly without employment, damaging his reputation and ability to obtain future employment. (Id.) It is further alleged that this action violated Mr. Donnelly's civil right to property, which left him homeless and unable to collect unemployment. (Id.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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