Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Claims of Reckless Conduct Allowed to Proceed in MVA Case Involving Pedestrian

In the case of Nebesky v. Pagnotti, No. 2019-CV-3170 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Aug. 15, 2019 Gibbons, J.), the court addressed Preliminary Objections filed against a civil litigation Complaint in which the Plaintiff alleged allegations of recklessness in addition to allegations of negligence in a motor vehicle accident case involving a pedestrian Plaintiff.

The tortfeasor Defendant filed Preliminary Objections seeking to strike the claims of recklessness that were “sprinkled” throughout the Complaint.   The tortfeasor Defendant asserted that the Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to support claims of reckless conduct which, according to the court, arguably could lay a foundation for later claims for punitive damages.   The court did note that the Complaint did not seek the imposition of punitive damages at this time.  

In response to the Defendant’s demurrer, the court generally noted that claims for punitive damages must be supported by evidence sufficient to establish outrageous conduct and that the Defendant had a subjective appreciation of the risk of harm and that the Defendant acted or failed to act in conscious disregard of that risk.

However, the court also stated that, under Pa. R.C.P. 1019(b), allegations pertaining to “[m]alice, intent, knowledge and other conditions of the mind may be averred generally.”   The court noted that an example of a condition of the mind that may be averred generally involved states of mind associated with wanton conduct.  

Consistent with other decisions out of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Gibbons in this Nebesky case went on to reason that, because recklessness is also known as “wanton willful misconduct,” recklessness is a condition of the mind that may be alleged generally in a Complaint.  

As such, the court denied the Preliminary Objections filed in this regard but noted that the Defendants retained the right to revisit the validity of such claims at the Motion for Summary Judgment stage once discovery has been completed. 

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

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