Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Demurrer Asserted by Officers/Agents of Corporate Defendants Denied in Premises Liability Action

In the case of Bell v. S.W. Krauss, LLC, No. 2023-CV-1578 (C.P. Lacka. Co. May 1, 2024 Gibbons, J.), the court issued an Opinion in which, in part, overruled Preliminary Objections against individual Defendants who affiliated with a corporate Defendant in a personal injury matter.

According to the Opinion, the case arose out of an incident during which a Plaintiff was at a nightclub establishment in the early morning hours as a result of which she was allegedly hit by a stray bullet while she was allegedly located in the parking lot allegedly due to a dispute in the parking lot on the premises.

The Plaintiff sued various corporate entities as well as certain individuals who allegedly had relationships with those corporate entities.

The individual Defendants filed Preliminary Objections seeking to be dismissed by virtue of a demurrer.

Certain of the individual Defendants asserted that they were entitled to be dismissed because the Plaintiff’s Complaint failed to assert that those Defendants had acted with “misfeasance,” which is a requirement for negligence actions against corporate officers and agents.

Judge James A. Gibbons
Lackawanna County

Judge Gibbons reviewed the law in this regard and noted that, in general, an officer or agent of a corporation who takes no part in the commission of an alleged tort committed by the corporation is not individually liable to third parties for such a tort. 

However, an officer or agent of the corporation may be held liable tort under a “participation theory,” which states that the participating individual is subject to liability as an actor, not as an owner or officer. In order to impose liability under a participation theory under Pennsylvania law, a Plaintiff must establish that the individual officer or agent engaged in misfeasance rather than mere non-feasance.

The court agreed with the Plaintiff’s argument that the Complaint sufficiently pled a negligence cause of action against the individual Defendants as possessors of the property where the Plaintiff was injured, although not necessarily as corporate officers or agents.  As such, the individual Defendants demurrers were overruled.

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

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