Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Allegations of Recklessness Upheld in York County Case

In her recent Opinion and Order in the case of Stout v. Loux, No. 2012-SU-2832-89 (C.P. York Co. March 5, 2013 Cook, J.), Judge Maria Musti Cook addressed Preliminary Objections filed by a Defendant against claims of reckless conduct in a Plaintiff’s Complaint arising out of a motor vehicle accident matter.  

By way of background, this matter arose out of an accident that occurred when the Plaintiff was working on a car in the pit area of the Susquehanna Speedway Park and was struck by a Sprint car driven by one of the Defendants.   The Plaintiffs filed a Complaint alleging negligence, gross negligence, and reckless conduct.   One of the Defendants filed Preliminary Objections to the claims for gross negligence and reckless conduct.  

In her decision, Judge Cook rejected the Defendant’s claim that there is no cause of action for “gross negligence.”   The court also rejected the Defendant’s argument that the Plaintiff’s Complaint failed to state a cause of action for recklessness as a matter of law.  

Although the defense argued that there was no recognize separate cause of action for gross negligence or any degrees of negligence, Judge Cook cited a number of cases in which Pennsylvania courts have at least recognized gross negligence as a theory or standard of care, if not as a separate cause of action.  Accordingly, the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections in this regard were overruled.

Judge Cook also noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has defined recklessness as being separate from negligence by stating that “recklessness requires conscious action or inaction which creates a substantial risk of harms to others, whereas negligence suggest unconscious inadvertence.”   Tayar v. Camelback Ski Corp. Inc., 47 A.3d 1190 (Pa. 2012).   In reviewing the Plaintiff’s Complaint, the court found that the Plaintiff’s allegations that the basic elements of cause of action for recklessness.  As such, the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections in this regard were overruled as well.

Anyone desiring a copy of Judge Cook’s decision in the case of Stout v. Loux may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

I send thanks to Attorney David Willk of the Williamsport, PA law office of Lepley, Engelman & Yaw, LLC for bringing this case to my attention.

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