Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reckless Conduct Allegations Allowed to Remain in Monroe County Auto Accident Complaint

In his recent decision in the case of Ocasio v. Biney, PICS Case No. 12-1217 (C.P. Monroe Co., April 24, 2012, Zulick, J.), Judge Arthur Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas denied a Defendant’s Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s allegations of reckless conduct and punitive damages in a motor vehicle accident Complaint.   The Court essentially ruled that it could not determine, at the pleadings stage of the litigation, whether the Defendant’s alleged conduct while operating his vehicle, if proven as alleged, was not undertaken with a reckless state of mind.  

Judge Zulick noted that, in order to establish the reckless state of mind necessary to support a punitive damages claim, a Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant knew, or had reason to know, that his conduct created an unreasonable risk of harm to an other and that the risk created by his conduct was substantially greater than the risk necessary to establish negligence.  

In this matter, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant was negligent and reckless and careless in that he failed to operate his vehicle at a safe speed and failed to bring his vehicle to a stop without contacting the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  

As noted above, Judge Zulick allowed these claims to proceed through the pleadings stage.  The Court left the door open for the Defendant to revisit the issue prior to trial on the question of whether the evidence produced was sufficient to allow a punitive damages claim to proceed to a jury.   As such, the Court overruled the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer to the Plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim.  

Anyone desiring a copy of this case may contact the Pennsylvania Law Weekly Instant Case Service by calling 1-800-275-7427 to request a copy at a small fee.

To view Tort Talk blog posts on other cases addressing allegations of reckless conduct in standard negligence cases, skim this list of posts at this LINK.

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