Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Primer on Complaint Drafting by the Superior Court

In the case of Bouchon v. Citizen Care, Inc., 2017 Pa. Super. 379 (Pa. Super. Dec. 6, 2017 Stabile, Olson, Strassburger, J.J.) (Op. by Stabile, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court provided lessons on the proper drafting of a Complaint in a civil litigation matter.  

Among the tips provided by the Superior Court in this decision is that a Plaintiff must plead claims separately against each Defendant.   The court noted that only claims against jointly liable Defendants may be pled together under certain circumstances.  The court noted that pleadings claims against separate and distinct Defendants together makes it impossible for each Defendant to properly respond.   As such, the court noted that multiple use of “and/or” and references to “Defendants” globally  render the Complaint unanswerable and are, therefore, improper.  

The court also noted that a Plaintiff is required to denominate the claims as wrongful death claims or survival actions in the Complaint.    The court noted that the nature of each claim must be specifically identified under Pa. R.C.P. 1019.  Moreover, wrongful death and survival actions are required to be labeled as such under Pa. R.C.P. 1020.  

The court additionally noted that wrongful death and survival actions must be brought by a personal representative of the deceased, and not merely by a statutory beneficiary.  

The court otherwise noted that claims of negligence, corporate negligence, and vicarious liability are separate causes of action.   It was additionally noted that “Damages” is not a proper separate cause of action.  

In the end, the court did provide the Plaintiff with another opportunity to amend and refile their Complaint.   

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck, of the Philadelphia office of Reed Smith for bringing this case to my attention.  

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