Monday, September 16, 2013

Federal Western District Court of PA Decision Allowing Punitive Damages Claim Based Upon Alleged Cell Phone Use in Trucking Accident Case



In his recent decision in the case of Scott v. Burke, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 123432 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 29, 2013 Hornak, J.), Western Federal District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak granted a plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint to add a punitive damages claim based upon a defendant tractor trailer driver's alleged cell phone use at the time of the subject accident.  The court also denied the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings on this issue and other issues presented.

Judge Hornak declined the defendant's invitation to conclude, as a matter of law, that allegedly merely glancing down at cell phone momentarily did not constitute valid support for a punitive damages claim.  The court noted that a dismissal of such a claim at this early pleadings stage of a matter was inappropriate particularly where it was alleged that the tractor trailer driver allegedly rear ended and killed the plaintiff as result.  The court noted that the issue may be ripe for reconsideration at the conclusion of discovery.

The court otherwise ruled that alleged evidence showing that the defendant’s driver was talking on a cell phone at or about the time of the accident creates a reasonable inference that the driver was willfully inattentive, thus permitting amendment of the complaint to add punitive damages.

Anyone wishing to review this Opinion in the Scott case by Judge Hornak may click this LINK.

Anyone wishing to review other Tort Talk blog posts on Cell Phone Use while driving, may click this LINK.  

You can also always view those posts by going to the Tort Talk blog at www.TortTalk.com and scrolling all the way down the right hand side of the blog to the "Labels" section and, under that, click on the Label for "Cell Phone Use."

I send thanks to Attorney James Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this Scott v. Burke case to my attention.


Source of imagewww.thepublicprofessor.com

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