Monday, June 26, 2023

Judge Nealon Give Complaint Drafting Tips

In the case of Dolinak v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 2021-CV-1643 (C.P. Lacka. Co. June 5, 2023 Nealon J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas reviewed the Rules of Civil Procedure regarding proper Complaint drafting in a case involving alleged weather-related damages allegedly sustained to the home of a State Farm insured.

Relative to the claims presented, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint against State Farm and State Farm filed Preliminary Objections stating that, based upon the allegations of the Complaint, it was not able to confirm exactly whether the Plaintiff was asserting simply a breach of contract claim and/or a bad faith claim.

Judge Nealon reviewed the pertinent Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, and the related case law, regarding Complaint drafting.

The court noted that Pa. R.C.P. 1020 provides that a Plaintiff may state in the Complaint more than one cause of action against the same Defendant and that such claims may be pled in the alternative.

However, under the related case law, a Plaintiff is required to present each claim in a self-sufficient separate count within the Complaint, which count is required to include allegations of facts in support of the particular claim asserted and the relief sought.

Here, the court noted that, even reviewing the allegations of Plaintiff’s Complaint as a whole, the Complaint did not provide State Farm with sufficient notice of the claims against which the carrier was required to defend.

As such, the court sustained the Preliminary Objections asserted by the Defendant but allowed the Plaintiff the right to file an Amended Complaint in which the Plaintiff was required to identify the claims asserted and the damages demanded in conformity with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

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

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