Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Punitive Damages Claim Allowed to Proceed In Auto Accident Case Where FedEx Driver Was Looking at a Tracking Device While Driving

A punitive damages claim based upon use of an electronic tracking device by a FedEx driver while driving was allowed to proceed beyond Preliminary Objections in the Northampton County case of Ramos v. Frasca, No. C-48-CV-2016-1166 (C.P. North. Co. Aug. 5, 2016 Beltrami, J.), handed down back in August of 2016.

In this case, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendant James Frasca, an employee of Defendant Federal Express Corp. (“FedEx”), was driving a FedEx truck at a high rate of speed while using a handheld electronic tracking device when he crashed into Plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff sought punitive damages in her complaint.

Defendants filed preliminary objections, asserting that Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages should be stricken.

In overruling the Defendant's Preliminary Objections, the Court noted that this was not a case of an alleged tortfeasor driver simply talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident;  rather, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant FedEx driver was actually using and looking at an electronic tracking device while driving.  The Court analogized the case to a previous case in Northampton County in which a request for punitive damages was not stricken when the complaint alleged that the defendant was driving at a high rate of speed while texting on a cellphone.

Accordingly, the Defendant's Preliminary Objections were overruled in this matter as well.

This decision is also notable for the Court's assertion that a punitive damages claim should not be set out as a separate Count in a Complaint as such a claim is simply a part of the general damages alleged.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may contact me at

I send thanks to Attorney Ralph Bellafatto of the Bellafatto Law Office in Easton, PA for bringing this decision to my attention.

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