Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Catch-all Allegations Stricken From Complaint in Monroe County

In the case of Delgado v. Whitestone Care Center, No. 6369-CV-2018 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 12, 2018 Zulick, J.), the court sustained a Defendant’s Preliminary Objections regarding vague catchall language in a Plaintiff’s negligence Complaint arising out of a trip and fall matter.   However, the court overruled the Defendant’s separate Preliminary Objection pertaining to the Plaintiff’s inability to specifically name individual employees at the Defendant’s business relative to the vicarious liability claims.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was allegedly injured when she tripped and fell while visiting her mother at the facility operated by the Defendants.  

The Defendants initially objected to a catchall allegation by the Plaintiff that the conduct of the Defendants was “otherwise careless” and which was “presently unknown to Plaintiff but which may be learned through the discovery” process or at trial.  

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
Monroe County

Judge Zulick agreed with the Defendants that this particular language of the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint was too vague and did not constitute a concise statement of material facts as required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.   The language also found not to prevent a claim for relief. Moreover, the court stated that such language could also lead to late claims with insufficient notice for the Defendants to properly prepare the defense for trial.   As such, Judge Zulick struck these allegations from the Complaint.  

However, the court denied the Defendant’s separate Preliminary Objections relative to the Plaintiff’s vicarious liability claim.   The court rejected the Defendant’s objection that the Plaintiff did not identify or describe the alleged agents or employees who acts or omissions allegedly resulted in her injuries.  

Judge Zulick pointed to Pennsylvania case law involving unnamed employees or agent and noted that, simply because employees or agents were unnamed, or were referred to as a unit, did not preclude a claim against the employer if those unidentified individuals acted negligently during the course and scope of their employment.  

Judge Zulick otherwise stated that the identity of the agents or staff members who were working in a particular patient room on the date of the Plaintiff’s injury were known or ascertainable by the Defendants, or that such information could otherwise be obtained through the course of discovery.   Given that the allegations provided enough facts to enable the defense to prepare a proper answer and defense, the court denied this Preliminary Objection. 

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Jan. 15, 2019).  

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