Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Punitive Damages Allowed to Proceed in Case Involving Alleged Driving While Intoxicated

In the case of Yzkanin v. Hammerjax, LLC, No. 18-CV-2260 (C.P. Lacka. Co. March 1, 2019 Nealon, J.), the court addressed Preliminary Objections seeking to strike allegations of reckless, willful, and wanton conduct along with a claim for punitive damages in a Dram Shop liability action.  

According to the Opinion, this matter arose out of an accident that occurred after the Plaintiff was a patron at the Defendant’s tavern and the tavern’s employees allegedly continued to serve the Plaintiff alcohol even though he was allegedly visibly intoxicated due to the fact that the Plaintiff was allegedly drinking excessively for an extended period of time.  

In other words, the Plaintiff Yzkanin alleged that he was drinking excessively on the night on question and then got into an accident after he left the tavern and then sued the tavern for continuing to serve him alcohol when he was visibly intoxicated. 

According to the Opinion, this case was also consolidated with the claim of the other Plaintiff who was in the other vehicle that was involved in the accident with Plaintiff Yzkanin.   That Plaintiff also sued the tavern Defendants under a Dram Shop action and made claims for recklessness and punitive damages.  

In his Opinion, Judge Nealon cited to the law that holds that punitive damages are appropriate when an individual’s actions are of such an outrageous nature as to demonstrate intentional, willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.   

Wanton or reckless conduct was further defined to refer to those instances when an actor has intentionally completed an act of unreasonable character in disregard of a risk known to him or a risk so obvious that he must have been aware of it and so great as to make it highly probable that harm would result.   The court additionally referred to the law that a mere showing of negligence, or even gross negligence, will not support a claim for punitive damages.  

After applying the law to the facts alleged in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, the court overruled the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections filed against the Plaintiff’s allegations of wanton, willful, and reckless conduct and also overruled the Preliminary Objections to the claims for punitive damages.   In so ruling, the court noted that the Defendants remained capable of testing the viability of the punitive damages claims later by way of a Motion for Summary Judgment.  

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

I send thanks to Attorney Dale G. Larrimore of the Philadelphia law firm of Larrimore & Farnish, LLP.  

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