Thursday, November 4, 2021

Court Allows Discovery of Forgery Based Evidence in Support of Negligent Hiring, Supervision, and Retention Claim in an MVA Case


In the case of Wolo v. Lennon, No. 2019-CV-6855 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Oct. 7, 2021 Minora, S.J.), Senior Judge Carmen D. Minora of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed a Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel what the Plaintiff had dubbed as “forgery based discovery.”

According to the Opinion, this case arose out of a motor vehicle accident involving a Defendant school bus driver. In the Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged claims of negligent hiring, supervision and/or retention of the Defendant bus driver by the Defendant bus company.

During the course of discovery, the Plaintiff requested signature exemplars from the Defendant driver and another employee of the busing company based upon a purported suspect appearance of the bus driver’s signature on four (4) separate documents within his employment file.

The court noted that, during the course of discovery, the Defendant bus driver questioned the veracity of his signatures at his deposition and even noted in one (1) instance that his name was misspelled.

The Defendants objected to the discovery by arguing, in part, that this case centered on injuries related to a subject motor vehicle accident and not to forgery issues.

The court noted that the Defendant’s position failed to consider the Plaintiff’s negligent hiring cause of action against the Defendant bus driver. In this regard, the court noted that, in her Complaint, the Plaintiff alleged that the bus company was negligent not only in hiring the bus driver but for failing to train him properly and for allowing him to operate a commercial motor vehicle without the required qualifications.

Judge Minora noted that the documents in the bus driver’s personnel file raised questions as to the authenticity of the bus driver’s signature. Some of these documents purported to certify the bus driver’s receipt from his employer of certain written materials, training documents, and policy documents, the receipt of which by a commercial driver was required by federal regulations. 

The court noted that, arguably, evidence which would show that the bus driver did not receive these materials or that the signatures certifying his receipt of the same were forged, court tend to establish that the bus company was allegedly negligent in its hiring, supervision, and/or retention of the bus driver as an employee.  As such, the discovery was allowed.

While the court did essentially grant the Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel the production of documents with exemplar signatures, the court limited the scope of the number of documents that were required to be produced by the Defendant.

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

I send thanks to Attorney Gerard W. Gaughan of O'Donnell Law in Kingston, PA for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of image:  Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash.com.

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