Thursday, May 21, 2020

When Is A Statement in a Pleading a Judicial Admission? (Non-Precedential)


In the case of Huchko v. Blouent International, No. 1281 WDA 2019 (Pa. Super. March 13, 2020 Pellegrini, J., Bowes, J., and Bender, P.J.E.) (Op. by Pellegrini, J.) (Non-Precedential), the court reviewed the proper analysis to determine whether an allegation in a Complaint may be determined to date a judicial admission by a Plaintiff.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff sued the Defendants for alleged faulty maintenance of a tractor’s brake system. The jury entered a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff.

On appeal, one of the Defendants argued that the trial court had erred in denying the Defendant’s Motion In Limine to preclude the Plaintiff from testifying at trial in contradiction to an allegation in the Plaintiff’s Complaint.

The Defendant asserted that in a paragraph of the Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Plaintiff had asserted that he had been run over while trying to stop a moving tractor, but that, it was anticipated that, at trial, the Plaintiff would testify instead that the tractor was stationary when he tried to climb into it after which it then began to roll down a slope and then ran him over.

The defense asserted that the allegation in the Plaintiff’s Complaint constituted a judicial admission that was binding on the Plaintiff’s trial testimony.

On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court finding that the allegations at issue in the Plaintiff’s Complaint did not amount to a judicial admission.

The rationale of the court was that a key element of a judicial admission was that the fact to be admitted must be admitted for the advantage of the admitting party.

In this case, the Superior Court agreed with the trial court that the interpretation of this allegation in the Complaint as advanced by the defense, i.e., that the Plaintiff tried to get on to the tractor while it was moving, was not advantageous at all to the Plaintiff. The Superior Court agreed with the trial court that, since this allegation was not advantageous to the Plaintiff, the trial court had properly found that it could not constitute a judicial admission that precluded the Plaintiff testifying at trial regarding how he sustained his injuries.

The Superior Court also noted that the allegations contained in the Complaint also did not amount to a “clear and unequivocal admission of fact” as required by past precedent to allow for a statement in a pleading to serve as an admission of fact.

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

Source: Article “Finding Plaintiff’s Testimony Didn’t Contradict Complaint, Superior Court Affirms $2.2 M verdict,” by Zack Needles of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 16, 2020).

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