Friday, December 29, 2023

Judge Nealon Addresses Procedural and Substantive Complaint Issues Regarding a Complaint in Med Mal Case

In the case of Healey v. Scranton Hospital Company, LLC, No. 23-CV-1793 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Nov. 20, 2023 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed various Preliminary Objections filed by Defendants in a medical malpractice case.

In part, the hospital Defendant filed Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer to the Plaintiff’s vicarious liability claims for failing to identify its alleged agents by name and failing to specify their agency authority.

The hospital Defendant also filed Preliminary Objections against the Plaintiff’s corporate negligence claims for (1) neglecting to allege its notice of the claimed institutional deficiencies, and (2) asserting the corporate liability claims against it and a Co-Defendant LLC in the same Count in the Complaint.

Also at issue in this case was a demurrer filed by the hospitalist and the LLC employer to the vicarious liability and corporate negligence claim asserted against those parties. 

Those Defendants also sought to strike the Plaintiff’s allegations of gross negligence as well as allegations against “Defendants” as asserted in lump sum fashion in certain paragraphs without clarifying which particular Defendant is being referenced, among other issues.

The Court issued the following decisions in this Opinion.    

Judge Nealon noted that, since it is not necessary for a Plaintiff to establish a right to recover on a vicarious liability claim based upon the negligence of a specifically named employee, the demurrers to the Plaintiff’s vicarious liability claims premised on the conduct of unnamed agents was overruled.

The court otherwise also ruled that, while the Plaintiffs had alleged a viable claim for corporate liability against the hospital and the LLC employer, the Plaintiff had failed to state a cognizable corporate negligence claim against the individual hospitalist Defendant for institutional negligence.  As such, the corporate liability claim against the hospitalist was dismissed.

The court additionally sustained the Preliminary Objections regarding the combined allegations asserted in single pleadings against multiple Defendants..  The court ruled that the corporate liability claims against the hospital and the LLC employer were required to be alleged in self-sufficient separate Counts under separate, distinct headings in the Complaint in order to comport with Pa. R.C.P. 1019(a) and 1020(a).

The court additionally ruled that, pursuant to 40 P.S. §1303.505(b) and (c), the Plaintiff’s allegations of “gross” negligence were immaterial to the Plaintiff’s malpractice burden of proof and, as such, would be stricken as impertinent matter in accordance with Pa. R.C.P. 1028(a)(2).

The court otherwise noted that blanket references to “Defendants” in lump sum fashion in certain paragraphs in the Complaint were improper.

The Plaintiff was afforded an opportunity to amend the Complaint to correct these errors and other errors identified above.

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

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