Friday, August 7, 2020

Allegations of Recklessness Stricken in Federal Court Trucking Accident Case Where No Outrageous Facts Pled

In the trucking accident case of Carson v. Tucker, No. 5:20-CV-00399 (E.D. Pa. July 16, 2020 Leeson, J.), the Court granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff’s claims of punitive damages and the defense's Motion to Strike the references to “gross,” “wanton,” and “reckless” throughout the Complaint where the Plaintiff could not factually justify the allegation of those terms. 

According to the Opinion, the accident involved one (1) tractor trailer rear-ending another tractor trailer, resulting in alleged injuries to the Plaintiff-tractor trailer driver. 

It is noted that the court previously granted the defense motion with respect to the Plaintiff’s original Complaint and allowed the Plaintiff the opportunity to amend. The case then came back to the court on similar objections to the Amended Complaint. 

The Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss under 12(b)(6). While the court agreed to review their Motion to Dismiss the punitive damages claims under this standard, the court noted that the more proper standard to review the Defendant’s request to dismiss the allegations of gross, wanton, and reckless conduct throughout the Complaint would be under a Rule 12(f) Motion to Strike rather than a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). 

After applying those applicable standard of review and after reviewing the requirements to pursue a punitive damages claim under Pennsylvania law, the court granted the Motions at issue. 

Judge Leeson reviewed the facts of numerous cases in which punitive damages were permitted to proceed against a tractor trailer defendant engaging in outrageous conduct or conduct confirming reckless indifference to the safety of others.  The court noted that, in this matter, simple allegations limited only to the Defendant allegedly failing to comply with traffic laws were not sufficient to support a claim for punitive damages. 

The court dismissed a claim for punitive damages in this case after finding that the Plaintiff did not plead facts sufficient to show that the Defendant tractor trailer driver’s actions were “outrageous enough to warrant punitive damages.” The court also found that the Plaintiff’s claims or conclusory and did not satisfy the requirement of asserting something more than mere negligence to support the claims.

The court also noted that the Plaintiff did not pled any facts to sufficiently illustrate that the Defendant driver had the necessary mental state of either intent or reckless indifference to justify the claim for punitive damages. 

With regards to the claims of gross, wanton, and reckless conduct, the court ruled that, since the punitive damages claims were dismissed, such terms became immaterial and had no essential or important relationship to other claims for the relief alleged. As such, the Motion to Strike was granted. 

With this ruling, it appears that this Eastern Federal District Court follows the line of those decisions that require sufficient facts to be pled in order to assert a claim for recklessness in a Complaint and not under that line of cases that allows recklessness to be pled in any case whatsoever regardless of the facts alleged.

I send thanks to Attorney James DeCinti, Esquire of the Harrisburg, PA office of the Pion, Nerone, Girman, Winslow & Smith, P.C. law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

For more cases on outlining the issue regarding allegations of recklessness in a tort Complaint, please go to, scroll down the right hand column until you get to the “Labels” section, and then scroll down alphabetically to the label for “Allegations of Recklessness” and click on that to get to all of the Tort Talk posts on this issue.

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