Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Recent Recklessness Decisions of Note


There continues to be a split of authority in the state trial court’s across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relative to the issue of whether a claim for recklessness in a personal injury case must be supported by specific averments of outrageous facts or whether such a claim can be generally pled in any case whatsoever regardless of the facts presented.

According to my research, which has been included in a proposed article submitted for possible pulication in the January of 2022 edition of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, at least 18 county courts have ruled that while a claim of recklessness may be generally stated in a Complaint such allegations must still be supported by a sufficient set of outrageous facts in order to proceed.  The research also reveals that only at least 9 county courts have ruled that a claim of recklessness may be stated in in any case whatsoever regardless of the facts alleged.  It is also noted that there are some splits of authority within certain counties.

In its most recent decision on the issue, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court's granting of preliminary objections asserted against claims of recklessness where it was found that the Plaintiff had only alleged facts in support of a negligence claim and not any facts to show any outrageous behavior on the part of the defendant.  See Valentino v. Philadelphia Triathlon, LLC150 A.3d 483, 488-489 (Pa.Super. 2016).   Notably, in Valentino, the Pennsylvania Superior Court did not even reference the dicta from Archibald v. Kemble as being of any moment on the question presented.

Below are some additional trial court decisions that have come to light:


Ulshafer v. Roth, No. S-711-21 (C.P. Schuyl. Co. Aug. 30, 2021 Miller, J.) (In an Order only, the court sustained a Defendant’s Preliminary Objections against allegations of recklessness in a motor vehicle accident case after the defense asserted that the Complaint did not have sufficient allegations of outrageous facts to support such claims.) (It is noted that Attorney Stephen T. Kopko of Cummins Law was defense counsel in this matter.) Click HERE to view this Court Order.
 
 

Fermin v. Sanchez, No. 1235-CV-2021 (C.P. Monroe Co. June 15, 2021 Zulick, J.) (By Order only, the court denied Defendant’s Preliminary Objections to recklessness and held that, pursuant to Archibald v. Kemble, 971 A.2d 513 (Pa. Super. 2009), recklessness is a state of mind which may be averred generally in a Complaint.) Click HERE to view this Court Order.


Benedict v. Giombolini, No. 21-CV-1134 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Aug. 18, 2021 Gibbons, J.) (Court overruled Defendant’s Preliminary Objections asserted against allegations of recklessness in a rear-end motor vehicle accident case; court relies upon Archibald v. Kemble for the proposition that an allegation of recklessness is an allegation as to a party’s state of mind which may be pled generally.) Click HERE to view this Court Opinion.


Heisler v. Harvey, No. 2021-CV-0-0273 (C.P. Leb. Co. Aug. 25, 2021, Jones, J.) (The court overruled a Defendant’s Preliminary Objections asserted against allegations of recklessness in a head-on motor vehicle accident case; the court relied upon, in part, Pa.R.C.P. 1019(b). The court found that the Preliminary Objections stage was too early in the matter to rule out a claim for punitive damages when the question of whether conduct is reckless or outrageous is one that is better left for after the close of discovery; as such, the court found that the Defendants attempt to rule out a punitive damages claim by requesting the court to strike language from the Complaint was premature. Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Kevin P. Foley of the Foley Law Firm in Scranton for providing me with copies of the Fermin, Benedict, and Heisler cases.




Maloney v. Murray, No. 2020-SU-000629 (C.P. York Nov. 9, 2020 Menges, J.)(The court overruled a defendant’s Preliminary Objections in a car accident case after finding that the facts asserted by the plaintiff in the Complaint were sufficient to provide the defendant with appropriate notice to defend a cause of action for recklessness.). Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Carrie McConnell of the Harrisburg, PA office of Summers, McDonnell, Hudock, Guthrie & Rauch, P.C. for bringing this Maloney case to my attention.




Oathout v. Masonic Temple Assoc., No. 10892 - 2020 (C.P. Erie Co. July 15, 2020 Ridge, J.)(The court overruled a defendant’s Preliminary Objections in a slip and fall case after finding that the facts asserted by the plaintiff in the Complaint were sufficient to support recklessness claims.).
Anyone wishing to review this case may click this LINK.


I send thanks to Attorney Bruce L. Decker, Jr., of the Erie, PA office of MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton, LLP for bringing this Oathout case to my attention.



Source of image:   Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash.com.

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