Thursday, August 18, 2022

Federal Court Judge Requires Citation To Statutes Referenced in Complaint

In the case of Fuhrman v. Mawyer, No. 1:21-CV-02024 (M.D. Pa. June 28, 2022 Kane, J.), the court declined to dismiss a punitive damages claim where the record revealed that the Defendant tractor trailer driver was facing pending criminal charges of homicide by vehicle and careless driving.

The court found that the Plaintiff had sufficiently pled that the Defendants’ actions leading to the fatal accident at issue constituted a reckless disregard of the substantial risk of a serious injury.  The Plaintiff alleged, in part, that the tractor trailer driver ran a red light while driving through town and struck the Plaintiff's vehicle, resulting in fatal injuries to the Plaintiff.

The Court noted that, while the Plaintiff had pled in the Complaint the many violations that made up the charges against the Defendant driver, the Plaintiff had not pled as to whether the Defendant driver had been formally charged.  The Court noted that it had the power to look outside of the Complaint to review documents of public record.  In doing so, the Court confirmed that the Defendant had been formally charged criminally.

Given the facts pled in the Complaint and the information gathered by the Court from a review of public records, the Court held that it would be premature to dismiss the punitive damages claims at the pleadings stage.

The court did otherwise grant in part and deny in part the Defendant’s Motion for a More Definite Statement under F.R.C.P. 12(e). 

More specifically, as to the subparagraphs of the Complaint that alleged that a Defendant breached a law or regulation, the court held that the Plaintiff should cite to the specific statute, ordinance, regulation, or rule that the Defendant was alleged to have violated.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 21, 2022).

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