In a recent decision, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania found that siblings not just spouses may be subject to abuse and, therefore, afforded the protections set forth in the Protection From Abuse Act in Pennsylvania (the “PFA Act”).
In Custer v. Cochrane, 207 Pa. Super. 290 (filed September 25, 2007), the parties were siblings who were both employed in the family business and worked together for over 35 years. One sibling was the Office Manager and served as Secretary/Treasurer of the corporation, and the other sibling was the President of the corporation. The allegations made by the sister were that her brother made verbal and physical threats, and that there actually were incidents of physical violence at the business.
In ruling that there was abuse and that the sister was entitled to protection under the PFA Act, the Superior Court rejected a prior line of cases which held that abusive behavior between siblings related to business was not subject to the PFA Act, as the parties did not reside in the same household. The Superior Court noted that the definition of those entitled to protection under the PFA Act had been expanded by the legislature and that even though these parties were not members of the same household, they were related by “consanguinity” and that the PFA Act now encompasses relationships outside the strictly domestic sphere. The parties were more than simply feuding business partners. They were siblings linked by a biological relationship; and, that, a sibling seeking protection from the other because of physical violence (if justified) would be protected pursuant to the PFA statute.
This case is striking in that it expands the protections afforded by the Act. It also amplifies the fundamentals of the Act in that individuals are not allowed to redress their wrongs by threats, abusive conduct, or other actions (threatened or actual).