Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Federal Court Allows Amendment To Complaint To Add Punitive Damages Claims in Trucking Accident Case

In the case of Stelzer v. Stewart Logistics, Inc., No. 1:21-CV-02097 (M.D. Pa. March 10, 2023 Kane, J.), the court granted a Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend under F.R.C.P. 15(a) in a trucking accident case to allow the Plaintiff to add a claim for punitive damages after discovery was found to have supported such a claim.

The court held that the punitive damages claim was neither late nor unduly prejudicial. In this regard, the court stated that the fact that punitive damages are not covered by insurance is not considered to be prejudicial as that term is defined in this context.

The court otherwise found that the Plaintiff’s requested amended allegations of both a subjective appreciation of the risk and an alleged conscious disregard of the risk of danger to others were plausible under the amended facts. More specifically, the Plaintiff was alleging that the Defendant driver allegedly concealed a medical condition, falsified federally required time logs, and ignored lane markings on the road.  As such, allowing the amendment was deemed not to be a futile effort on the part of the Plaintiff.

The court additionally noted that the Defendant driver’s employer could be vicariously liable for punitive damages under the case presented.

The court also ruled that the claim for direct punitive damages against the employer were also plausible on the negligent hiring claim.

As such, the Plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Complaint.    

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The court's companion Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia law office of the Reed Smith law firm.

Source of image:  Photo by Brian Stalter on www.unsplash.com.

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