Stuart T. O’Neal III
Stuart T. O’Neal is a trial attorney and litigator based out of the firm’s Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre area offices, where he maintains an active statewide practice. Mr. O’Neal is Co-Chair of Burns White’s Cybersecurity and Professional Liability Groups and was named the firm’s first Chief Privacy Officer in 2014.
Mr. O’Neal’s trial practice revolves around commercial, contractual, and employment disputes, as well as matters related to medical malpractice on an individual and corporate level. Mr. O’Neal has been retained by clients to handle internal investigations centered around the misappropriation of funds, embezzlement, and internal audits. Mr. O’Neal has also been retained by large institutions to defend class actions in data breach and privacy actions.
Additionally, Mr. O’Neal represents C-level executives (CEOs, CFOs, CIOs) on an individual basis in a variety of matters, including trial presentation and pursuant to subpoenas. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State University case, he was retained by both individual fact witnesses and corporations in the criminal and civil aspects of that matter. He routinely works with corporations in defending corporate liability theories of negligence in all types of cases and lectures on this topic as well.
Mr. O’Neal is a Judge Pro Tem in Philadelphia County and a mediator in Montgomery County. He is also President of The Hamels Foundation Board of Directors, a nonprofit education organization founded by former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, and a Board Member and past President of the Professional Liability Defense Federation (PLDF), an organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that comprises more than 450 members. Mr. O’Neal is Chair of the Data Breach/Privacy Committee for PLDF as well.
Mr. O’Neal obtained his undergraduate degree from Dickinson College and his Juris Doctorate from the Villanova University School of Law. While at Villanova Law, a case note drafted by Mr. O’Neal about the regulations affecting the petroleum refining industry was selected for publication.
Mr. O’Neal was named to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® list in 2012, and to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® “Rising Stars” lists from 2010-2011. Mr. O’Neal is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Areas of Law
- Cybersecurity Liability/Data Breach Defense
- Employment and Commercial Matters
- All Matters Related to Professional Liability Defense
- Villanova University School of Law
- Dickinson College
Bar and Court Admissions
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- Professional Liability Defense Federation
- Past President
- Chair of Data Breach/Privacy Committee
- Claims and Litigation Management (CLM) Alliance
- Obtained the maximum arbitration monetary award available for the firm’s hospital client involving a commercial dispute over the sale of hospital equipment to a third party vendor. The hospital contended that the Tulsa, Okla.-based defendant, which it was suing, was unjustly enriched and breached a commercial sales contract with the hospital over the sale of the equipment. The defendant contended through several witnesses at the hearing, including its CEO, that a mutual mistake between the parties voided the transaction and the contract. The three-person arbitration panel found in favor of the hospital in less than twenty minutes.
- Received a dismissal for a health care system client in a claim brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The plaintiff, a former patient, filed amended complaints of conspiracy and later RICO against our client and four other defendants after not entering a settlement from an initial claim made several years prior. In June 2014, Judge Petrese B. Tucker, C.J. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed all claims with prejudice, stating the plaintiff lacked standing, and her allegations of conspiracy were little more than an attempt to improperly re-litigate her medical malpractice claim.
- Obtained a dismissal with prejudice in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for a parent company of a co-defendant hospital facing alleged violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act. The plaintiff, who was a physician, entered into two successive on-call agreements with the hospital, where he was paid for the days he worked as the on-call physician. The first contract was terminated after it was learned that the plaintiff had a financial stake in a competing health care provider. The plaintiff later entered into a second on-call agreement when the hospital was under new management which permitted him to retain his financial stake in the competing provider. However, he subsequently violated a non-compete clause in that agreement which led to the termination of the contract. After meeting with his attorney, the plaintiff alleged that he realized that both on-call agreements were executed solely to coerce Medicare patient referrals violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. Both defendants argued that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to provide a claim in either agreements’ termination provisions that violated the federal statutes.
- Secured a complete dismissal for a physician client on the eve of trial in a medical malpractice matter in Philadelphia County, where the plaintiff’s demand was $12 million.
- Obtained a dismissal for a hospital client in a medical malpractice case in Philadelphia County. The hospital raised preliminary objections challenging several procedural deficiencies in the plaintiff’s complaint, which were sustained in their entirety, resulting in the client’s dismissal.
- Secured the dismissal of corporate liability claims in three medical malpractice matters against two hospital clients. In all three cases, the main argument was made through dispositive motion practice, centering on elements of the Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court opinion in Thompson v. Nason Hospital that were not met.
Obtained a dismissal for a health system client in a professional liability/medical malpractice action. The plaintiffs, the parents of a little boy, alleged that their son suffered serious injuries over the course of delivery due to a hospital’s negligence. The firm’s health system client was included in the matter by virtue of a successor liability theory that was dismissed early in the litigation.
- Secured a dismissal with prejudice for a hospital client in a medical malpractice action where a party representing the deceased patient alleged the administration of various drugs and drug combinations causing prolongation of the QTc interval, QT prolongation in the EKG and sudden cardiac death. Burns White successfully entered a judgment of non pros for failure to file timely certificates of merit and later filed a motion to strike the plaintiff’s certificate of merit and dismiss his complaint with prejudice on the basis that it was not certified by the appropriately licensed professional qualified to offer opinions critical of the hospital’s agents and employees.
- Secured a complete dismissal of a claim for a New Jersey-based physician client in a medical malpractice matter involving eight other facilities and physicians. The defense strategy centered on the care and treatment provided exceeding the standard of care, discounting any alleged malpractice. In order to preserve our client’s reputation, Burns White requested a dismissal which was later granted.
- Obtained dismissal with prejudice for a hospital client in a medical malpractice matter in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, involving thirteen other facilities and physicians. The court granted the dismissal based on an affidavit of non-involvement and subsequent motion illustrating that the hospital had no part in the negligent care and treatment that was alleged.
- Granted a hospital client a petition for equitable relief in the form of a permanent injunction in Lackawanna County, banning a problem patient for life. The client initiated the action after encountering continuous problems from a frequent patient, who was both verbally abusive and threatening to hospital staff.
- Received a summary judgment for a nonprofit client that provides residential, therapeutic, educational, vocational and social programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the basis that the plaintiff failed to sustain their burden of proof of gross negligence, a required threshold in cases against facilities like our client covered by the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act and the Mental Health Protections Act. Burns White further asserted that the plaintiff failed to produce expert reports to support their theories of negligence and causation. The matter is currently being appealed by the plaintiff.
- Obtained a dismissal for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility client. Through aggressive investigation and discovery motions, it was determined and confirmed that the plaintiff had died before the filing of the lawsuit. Burns White secured an order on the motion for sanctions precluding the plaintiff from offering certain evidence in support of the case. Burns White also established that there was no proper party to the suit, as the plaintiff was deceased and her counsel did not seek to timely find a substitute for her estate.
- Successfully defeated a plaintiff’s motion for injunctive relief in federal court for a foster placement agency facing allegations of professional negligence in a child placement matter where several children were improperly removed from the home.
- Successfully defended a private foster child placement service and several of its named employees in a claim brought by foster parents contesting the county agency’s decision to place the foster children with different foster parents. The complaint, filed in federal court, raised constitutional and pendent state claims against the county agency and the Burns White client. After filing comprehensive motions for summary judgment raising the plaintiffs’ lack of standing, the federal abstention doctrine and qualified immunity, among other defenses, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their complaint against all parties before oral argument on the motions.
- Secured a summary judgment in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Pa. for a foster care service that was sued along with a government agency, regarding the removal and termination of parental rights of the plaintiff-father. While several of the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed prior to summary judgment, a federal claim regarding the abuse or violation of due process and a state claim regarding the intentional infliction of emotional distress remained. Burns White argued that not only was our client not involved in any alleged violation of due process, but that the plaintiff had received due process throughout the underlying litigation. The court granted summary judgment, ruling in favor of the defendants on all of the plaintiff’s remaining claims.
- Obtained a dismissal for a licensed social worker against civil allegations that she engaged in fraudulent business activities and unethical conduct. The client denied all allegations brought by the business partnership and her former employer, and was not charged criminally. The court found in favor of the defense, ordering that all defense fees and costs be submitted to binding arbitration for potential reimbursement.
- Successfully resolved a defamation case for a high-level corporate executive, estopping several national and international companies from defaming his reputation. The alleged defamation was internet-based and implicated the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Stored Communications Act. In addition, the actions of the offending companies were also threatening to interfere with present and prospective contractual relations of the executive client and his company. The matter was resolved outside of court, saving the client a significant amount of time and money from what would have been a very long, complex and costly Federal trial, while still achieving all of his goals.
- Received a defense verdict in Montgomery County on behalf of a professional liability corporation in a matter where the plaintiff alleged defamation, as well as outrageous and reckless conduct that allegedly warranted punitive damages. The court found in favor of the defense and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims outright.
- Secured a dismissal of a defamation claim lodged against a large health care provider, as well as an individual executive from the same institution, facing alleged punitive damages. The claims for defamation, denied by the health care provider and the executive, were related to a former physician and department head.
- Received a dismissal for a health system client, where the estate of a 54-year-old man alleged that the staff of one of its hospital emergency rooms did not diagnose a cerebral vascular incident that caused his death three months after admission. The plaintiff declared counts of wrongful death—vicarious liability, wrongful death—corporate liability and a Survival Act claim. On the eve of trial, our hospital client was released from the case due in part to several summary judgments that mitigated many of the claims against the hospital itself, including corporate liability.
- Obtained a complete defense verdict after a two-week trial before the Honorable Marlene Lachman for an acute care hospital client involving allegations of a delay in intubation for a patient with angioedema, swelling of the neck, mouth and airway, secondary to prescription ACE inhibitors. The plaintiff’s claims included claims of corporate negligence regarding emergency room coverage and specialty consultation availability for an airway emergency. The jury verdict was unanimous.
- Secured a dismissal for an acute care hospital in a breach of standard of care case. The plaintiff, a patient who received treatment at the facility, alleged that our client failed to identify her as a fall risk and prevent her alleged injuries. Through the aggressive pursuit of discovery, Burns White showed that the plaintiff failed to respond to any discovery requests and file a verification with the complaint. Prior to granting the dismissal, the court precluded the plaintiff from testifying about the information requested in our discovery requests.
- Received a favorable ruling in Philadelphia County where a hospital client, along with an affiliated physician and a nonprofit organization, were facing allegations of pneumonia diagnosis and treatment failure that led to a patient’s death. The hospital and its corporate entity were being sued by the deceased’s descendent under theories of vicarious liability and corporate liability. In two separate counts, plaintiff alleged a host of failures, including failure to obtain appropriate consultations, appropriately supervise nurses and residents, hire competent physicians and staff, and ensure quality medical care. In the first order, the court sustained Burns White’s preliminary objections, striking plaintiff’s claims of corporate negligence, vague allegations of agency and over 50 vague allegations of negligence from plaintiff’s amended complaint. In the second order, the court granted a motion to enter a judgment of non pros on plaintiff’s claims of corporate negligence, where plaintiff failed to file timely certificates of merit for claims of corporate negligence resulting in a dismissal with prejudice.
- Obtained a summary judgment in Trumbull County, Ohio for an insurance client in a coverage matter. The third-party plaintiffs, three nurses who were being sued for medical malpractice in relation to the obstetrical management, labor and delivery of a baby born on Feb. 24, 2010, were seeking liability insurance coverage, and damages for breach of contract and bad faith. Burns White argued that the policy did not apply to any loss prior to the retroactive date of Oct. 1, 2010, thus excluding the Feb. 24 incident from coverage. The court agreed, dismissing all counts in the third-party complaint with prejudice.
- Received a dismissal in the United States District Court in Philadelphia for a private placement and treatment services agency client in a matter raising serious claims of indifference, nonfeasance and malfeasance. Plaintiff, a woman alleging that she suffered physical abuse as a child while living in a foster home, brought the case after she reached the age of majority. Her claim, which was multifaceted, centered on Constitutional dimension claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 involving our client, the local government’s Department of Human Services and other private agencies. Burns White filed a motion to dismiss, relying upon the statute of limitations and plaintiff’s failure to plead sufficient facts concerning the actions of the client to state a claim, including that the client was acting under the color of state law when working on plaintiff’s behalf.
- Obtained a complete defense verdict for a health care institution client, where a husband and wife alleged damage to their personal property while on the client’s premises. The court adjudicated on claims made by both the husband and wife, and considered testimony of all parties, including several eye witnesses.
- Received a defense verdict for a hospital client in a premises liability action in Philadelphia County. Following a detailed background investigation, Burns White introduced key witness testimony of the alleged accident which undermined all allegations of negligence against the hospital. At the time of arbitration, the panel attributed no liability to the facility and entered a defense verdict.
- Secured a dismissal in Chester County, Pa. for an executive of a solar power company in a breach of contract claim.
- The Hamels Foundation Board of Directors
- Vice President, 2014-2015
- Maxwell Football Club, Voting Member
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