Monday, July 24, 2023

Trial Court Upholds Right of Plaintiff To Amend Complaint At Trial To Add Claims of Recklessness and Punitive Damages

In the case of Vanston v. Green Ridge Health Care Group, LLC, No. 2019-CV-6227 (C.P. Lacka. Co. July 7, 2023 Munley, Julia, J.), the court denied a Defendant’s Motion for an Amendment of an Order for the purpose of seeking an interlocutory appeal.  This request was made relative to the trial court’s underlying Order that had allowed an amendment to the Plaintiff’s Complaint at a trial of a negligence case involving a nursing home to add a claim of recklessness and a claim for punitive damages after the completion of the testimony of certain Defendants and even though the statute of limitations had previously expired.

In this regard, Judge Munley found that there were sufficient facts pled in the original Complaint such that the court rejected the Defendant’s argument that the claims of recklessness and punitive damages were barred by the statute of limitations.

In her decision, Judge Munley cited to previous decisions by her colleague on the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Terrence R. Nealon, who had previously ruled that amendments to a Complaint are permitted after the running of the statute of limitations so long as no new causes of action are pled.

Judge Julia Munley
Lackawanna County

In this regard, Judge Munley noted that recklessness is considered an aggravated form of negligence and not a new cause of action. She also noted that, under Pennsylvania law, a request for punitive damages does not constitute a cause of action in and of itself. Rather, a request for punitive damages is merely incidental to an underlying cause of action.

Accordingly, Judge Munley ruled that an amendment to a Complaint to add a claim for punitive damages after the statute of limitations has run is permissible where the main operative facts to support such a claim have been previously alleged in the original Complaint.

Judge Munley noted that a decision was further supported by the fact that the Plaintiffs alleged facts indicative of reckless conduct in the original Complaint.  The Court pointed to those cases in which it has been held that recklessness can be pled in any case whatsoever, regardless of the facts pled.

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

I send thanks to Attorney Jamie Anzalone and Attorney Kelly Ciravolo of Anzalone Law Offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for bringing this case to my attention.

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