Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Court Grants Trucking Defendant's Motion to Amend its Answer and New Matter to Change Denials to Admissions

In the case of Bellersen v. Gill, No. 19-CV-2686 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Nov. 1, 2021 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon addressed a motion filed by a trucking Defendant in a motor vehicle accident litigation under which the trucking Defendant sought to amend its Answer and New Matter to change previous denials in its original Answer and New Matter relative to the facts and the cause of the accident.

The trucking Defendant sought to admit factual allegations of the accident and to further admit that the Defendant driver’s failure to use due care while driving his vehicle on Interstate 380 caused him to rear-end the vehicle in front of him which, in turn, caused that vehicle to rear-end the vehicle that the Plaintiff was driving, and further caused the front of the Plaintiff’s vehicle to hit the vehicle in front of the Plaintiff.

It was noted in the Opinion that, while this proposed amendment was offered up two (2) years after the original Answer and New Matter was filed, no trial date was scheduled in the case and discovery was ongoing.

The Defendant offered up a proposed Order that not only granted his motion but also contained language under which the Defendant driver seeking the court to rule that such admissions shall not be used as any admission of any type of conduct which could serve as the basis for the imposition of punitive damages.

Judge Terrence R. Nealon
Lackawanna County

In his Opinion, Judge Nealon reviewed the rules regarding pleading, which he confirmed are to be liberally applied. The court also noted that there was no time limit under Pa.R.C.P. 1033 for the filing of any request for an amendment to a pleading.

The court granted the Defendant’s Motion and allowed the amendment but held any decision on the impact of any such amendment on any claim for punitive damages for a later day.

The court noted that the Defendant’s request that the Plaintiff be prevented from making any evidentiary use of the allowed admissions in support of the Plaintiff’s punitive damages claims was not an appropriate consideration relative to the request for leave of court to amend a pleading under Rule 1033. Rather, the court noted that the preclusion of evidence at trial is more properly a subject for a Motion In Limine to be decided by any assigned trial judge.

The court emphasized that any admission that the trucking Defendant would put in his Answer and New Matter would be considered a judicial admission. However, any legal conclusions in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, such as allegations of negligence and/or recklessness, would not qualify as judicial admissions under Pennsylvania law.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this interesting Opinion by Judge Nealon in the case of Bellersen may click this LINK.

Source of top image: Photo by Mike from Pexels.com.



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