Sunday, August 19, 2012

Punitive Damages Claim Against Diabetic Defendant Driver Allowed to Stand

In the case of Behler v. Smith, No. C-48-CV-2011-2443 (C.P. Northampton Co. Nov. 2, 2011 Koury, Jr., J.), Judge Michael J. Koury of the Northampton Court of Common Pleas addressed a Defendant’s Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer to the Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages with regard to a diabetic Defendant driver's failure to monitor his sugar levels prior to a motor vehicle accident matter.  

In this case, the Plaintiffs and the Defendant were allegedly involved in a head-on collision.  According to the Opinion, it was alleged that the Defendant was a diabetic and that onsite testing confirmed that the Defendant’s blood sugar level was low at the time of the collision.  

The Plaintiff asserted, in part, that the Defendant was negligent in failing to monitor and recognize his low blood sugar levels and for continuing to drive despite such low blood sugar levels.

The Defendant filed a Preliminary Objection in the nature of a demurrer to the punitive damages claim.  

The court noted that the Plaintiff based the punitive damages claim on allegations that the Defendant allegedly failed to properly educate himself regarding the signs of low blood sugar, allegedly fail to properly monitor, treat for, medicate, and care for his condition, and allegedly noted but ignored the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar as a result of his diabetes.   The Plaintiff additionally alleged that, even though the Defendant knew low blood sugar would affect his driving abilities, the Defendant still drove his vehicle allegedly creating an appreciable harm to others.  

After reviewing the facts pled against the law of punitive damages, Judge Koury denied the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections and allowed that claim to stand.   The Court found that, based upon the allegations set forth in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, facts were pled to support the Plaintiff’s allegation that the Defendant had a subjective appreciation of the risk of harm to which he exposed the Plaintiffs and that the Defendant allegedly acted, or failed to act appropriately, in conscious disregard of that risk.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Decision may contact me at

I send thanks to Attorney Paraskevoula Mamounas of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania law firm of Thomas, Conrad & Conrad for forwarding this decision to my attention. 

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