Monday, May 18, 2020

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Addresses Gist of the Action Doctrine

In the case of Artisan and Truckers Cas. Co. v. Travelcenters of America, Inc., No. 9778-CV-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. Feb. 26, 2020 Williamson, J.), the court overruled a Defendant’s Preliminary Objections based, in part, on the gist the action doctrine.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff insurance company had issued a policy to a trucking company who owned a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer had been taken for repairs at a station owned by the Defendant. Later on the same day that the repairs were completed, the truck caught fire.

An allegation was made that the repair facility made improper repairs that caused the fire. In this insurance subrogation action, the Plaintiff insurance company asserted that it was required to pay its insured $200,000.00 under the policy. The carrier filed a Complaint against the Defendant repair facility asserting claims of negligence, breach of contract, breach of express and/or implied warranties, and other claims.

The Defendant filed Preliminary Objections asserting that the negligence count violated the gist of the action doctrine.

Judge Williamson noted that the gist of the action doctrine prevents a Plaintiff from bringing an action for a negligence when the allegations state that the breached duty arose from a contractual relationship. The doctrine prevents Plaintiffs from filing a separate negligence claim arising solely from the contract between the parties, where the duties allegedly breached were created in the contract itself, where liability stems from a contract, or where the tort claim essentially duplicates the breach of contract claim.

After reviewing the record before him, Judge Williamson overruled the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections after finding that the alleged breach of duty went beyond the strict requirements of the gist of the action doctrine. The court noted that, despite there being numerous decisions analyzing the doctrine, “there is no clear cut standard for determining when an action falls” within the doctrine.

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

I send thanks to Attorney Dale G. Larrimore from the Philadelphia law firm of Larrimore & Farnish, LLP, for bringing this case to my attention.

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