Friday, August 27, 2021

Vague Allegations of Recklessness Stricken in a Motor Vehicle Accident Case Out of Beaver County

In the case of Willis v. Tyson, No. 10646-2020 (C.P. Beaver Co. May 24, 2021 Shahen, J.), the court struck allegations of recklessness as insufficient in this motor vehicle accident case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant driver was operating a vehicle when that vehicle struck the Plaintiff’s occupied parked vehicle. The Plaintiff generally asserted that the Defendant was operating a vehicle at a high rate of speed and in a reckless manner. The Plaintiff otherwise argued that the Defendant driver was negligent in operating a vehicle in a recklessness manner under the totality of the circumstances.

The court reviewed the issue under a Preliminary Objection asserting insufficient specificity of a pleading.

After reviewing the current status of the law of Pennsylvania on the claim of recklessness, including the review of the case of Archibald v. Kemble, 971 A.2d 513 (Pa. Super. 2009), the court in this Willis case noted that, while a condition of the mind may be averred generally, a plaintiff must still plead sufficient facts to establish that the conduct of the Defendant was reckless. In this regard, the Willis court cited the case of Ammlung v. City of Chester, 302 A.2d 491 (Pa. Super. 1973). The court in Willis emphasized that the Ammlung court pointed out that the allowance to aver conditions of the mind generally “was not meant, however, to dispense with the requirement that material facts constituting the conduct of a Defendant also be pleaded.” [citation omitted].

In this case, the court found that the Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the claim of recklessness failed to inform the Defendant as to what conduct was allegedly at issue in terms of an allegation of reckless conduct which would potentially support a claim for punitive damages. The court found that the claims in the Complaint alleging reckless conduct were “fatally vague and uninformative.” As such, the court granted the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections and struck the allegations of the Complaint alleging reckless conduct. 

The court did grant the Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint in an effort to secure the deficiencies at issue.

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

I send thanks to attorney William C. Robinson, III of the Pittsburgh law firm of Robb Leonard Mulvihill, LLP for bringing this case to my attention.

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