Thursday, December 6, 2012

Judge Minora of Lackawanna County Allows Addition of Punitive Damages Allegations After Expiration of Statute of Limitations

In his recent decision in the case of Strain v. Cianni, PICS Case No. 12-2200 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Nov. 5, 2012 Minora, J.), Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carmen D. Minora allowed a Plaintiff to amend the Complaint to add punitive damages after the statute of limitations had run where the Plaintiff had already previously asserted in the original Complaint allegations of willful, wanton, and reckless conduct. 

Judge Carmen D. Minora
Lackawanna County
In the decision granting the Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend, the court ruled that the punitive damages claim in this matter was not a new cause of action and the Defendants would not be prejudice by the allowance of the amendment. 

 In this case arising out of a claim for wrongful death and survival action pertaining to the death of a decedent under allegations that her death was preventable but that the Defendants allegedly did not monitor or respond to her illness in an appropriate manner, the Plaintiff had originally filed a Complaint containing allegations of willful, wanton, and reckless conduct.   The Plaintiffs were seeking to amend their Complaint to specifically add the claim of punitive damages in an effort to avoid confusion.  

 Applying Pa. R.C.P.  1033, the court determined that there would be no statute of limitations issue regarding the addition of further allegations necessary to specifically state the claim of punitive damages where the original Complaint adequately plead the underlying averments required.  

Here, the court found that the proposed amendment did not change the cause of action but merely amplified what had already been averred.   As such, the fact that the statute of limitations had expired was of no moment under these circumstances.  

The court also noted that the Plaintiff’s amendment would not prejudice the Defendant because a request for punitive damages did not constitute a cause of action but was merely incidental to a previously stated cause of action.

Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend was permitted.

Anyone desiring a copy of Judge Minora's decision in Strain v. Cianni may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

Source:  "Case Digests."  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Nov. 27, 2012).

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