Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Punitive Damages Claims Allowed to Proceed in Distracted Driving Case

In the case of Baez v. Rosenberry, No. 19-CV-0131 (C.P. Union  Co. July 31, 2019 Hudock, P.J.), the court overruled Preliminary Objections of a Defendant to allegations of distracting driving, reckless conduct, as well as with respect to a claim for punitive damages.  

According to the Opinion, the mirror of the Defendant’s vehicle struck the pedestrian Plaintiff while the Defendant’s vehicle was passing the Plaintiff as the Plaintiff was walking on the right shoulder of a highway.  

The court allowed the allegations pertaining to reckless conduct and punitive damages to stand after noting that the Complaint portrayed the Defendant as a distracted driver who failed to remain on the road, was fatigued, was traveling too fast for conditions, and who struck a pedestrian.   

Based upon these allegations, the Court noted that it "may infer that Defendant’s vehicle continued to travel forward with the Defendant unaware of the roadway in front of him.”   See Op. at p. 3.  Judge Hudock cited to case law imposing a duty of motorists to look in the direction in which the car is proceeding and to keep the car under proper control so as to avoid dangers to pedestrians and others who may be in front of a motorist on the roadway.  The Court also noted that failure to meet these duties is a flagrant violation of a duty.

Overall, the court found that the allegations at issue were sufficient to support the claims of reckless conduct and to possibly impose punitive damages.   The court emphasized that it was not deciding the merit of the claims presented but only that the Plaintiff had pled sufficient facts which, if proven, would establish a right to relief.  As such, the Preliminary Objections of the Defendant were overruled. 

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

I send thanks to Attorney Scott B. Cooper of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law office of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention. 

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