REVIEW AND/OR RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT’S OBJECTIONS
The Defendants makes several allegations on their Objections. Herein, I have provided responses to the said Objections. Accordingly, I have included case laws and/or statutes where applicable to support your response(s) thereof.
- THE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS TIMELY FILED
The Defendants allege that the Motion for Summary Judgement has been filed at the wrong time. Defendants base their argument on the ground that pleadings have not been concluded. Defendants rely on Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2 which provides in pertinent part that “A motion for summary judgment may be filed after relevant pleadings are closed, but within such time as to not unreasonably delay trial.”
However, Defendants fail to recognize that Pa.R.C.P. 1035.2 does not provide a specific time limitation beyond “unreasonable delay,” and further, the court may disregard errors or defects of procedure which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties. See Pa.R.C.P. 126, 1035.2. Therefore, the court may overrule their objection because your filing of the Motion does not affect the substantial rights of the parties in your case, since the case will still be heard and both parties will be given chance to present their case. Besides, if the court finds that the filing was in error, it is within the court’s discretion to disregard such errors and defects.
- DEFENDANTS IS LIABLE FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES
The Defendants allege that you have not stated sufficient proof of their liability for punitive damages. They aver that their conduct failed to meet the threshold for the award of punitive damages.
First, in considering the Defendants’ demurrer, the Court will accept as true all well-pled material allegations in your Amended Complaint, as well as all inferences reasonably deducible from the Complaint. See Aviles v. Dep’t of Corr., 875 A.2d 1209 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005). Accordingly, the Court will only sustain the Defendants’ demurrer where it is clear and free from doubt that the law will not permit recovery under the facts alleged. Id.; see also Doxsey v. Commonwealth, 674 A.2d 1173 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996).
Second, it is evident that Defendants’ actions demand an award of punitive damages against them. An “[a]ssessment of punitive damages [is] proper when a person’s actions are of such an outrageous nature as to demonstrate intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct and are awarded to punish that person for such conduct.” SHV Coal, Inc. v. Cont’l Grain Co., 587 A.2d 702, 704 (Pa. 1991) (Emphasis added). “In assessing punitive damages, the trier of fact can properly consider the character of the defendant’s act, the nature and extent of the harm to the plaintiff that the Defendants caused or intended to cause[,] and the wealth of the defendant.” Id. (citing Section 908(2) of the Restatement (Second) of Torts as adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Feld v. Merriam, 485 A.2d 742 (Pa. 1984)). In your fact pattern, there are several instances that show the reckless and wanton nature of the Defendant’ actions. For example, Dr. Kail left you in a room alone while in pain and with a lower partial denture stuck in your mouth. He did not excuse himself or give a reason for his leaving the room.
You may also argue that Defendants’ objection to punitive damages is without basis because a request for punitive damages is not a cause of action. The Courts have held in that regard that: “A request for punitive damages does not constitute a cause of action in an[d] of itself. ” Shanks v. Alderson, 582 A.2d 883, 885 (Pa.Super.Ct. 1990) (“The right to punitive damages is merely an incident to a cause of action and not a cause of action in and of itself.”); Robbins v. Cumberland County Children and Youth Servs. 802 A.2d 1239, 1253 (Pa.Commw.Ct. 2002) Accordingly, (“[P]unitive damages are a form of relief, not a separate cause of action under Pennsylvania law.”).
- YOUR CLAIMS AND/OR CAUSES OF ACTION ARE WELL PLEAD
The Defendants allege that your complaint cited a wrong section of the law for the second cause of action; that your allegations are not sufficiently clear to enable them prepare a defense; and that they are broad.
First, your Complaint rightly stated the correct cause of action for the second claim. The Complaint stated violation of Common law negligence, and Pennsylvania Code, Title 42 §§8321-8327 et seq. Specifically, the Defendant raised objections pertaining to the last section of law (Title 42 §§8321-8327 et seq). Title 42 §§8321-8327 rightly applies to your case. According to 42 Pa. C.S. § 8322, the said Section applies when “two or more persons are jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to persons or property.” That means, the Section applies to the claim because the Defendants are jointly liable for their actions.
Second, your claims are well stated. The law requires that “each claim must be presented in a self-sufficient separate count, which includes averments of facts pertaining to the particular claim and relief sought.” Commonwealth v. Parisi, 873 A.2d 3, 9 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005). A preliminary objection that challenges “the legal sufficiency” of the claims in the Complaint will be sustained only in cases where the pleader has “clearly failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.” Clark v. Beard, 918 A.2d 155, 158-59 n.4 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). “The demurrer may be granted only in cases which are so free from doubt that a trial would certainly be a fruitless exercise.” Id. It follows; your complaint clearly cites claims for relief, and each claim contains factual basis of the allegations thereof.
- DEFENDANTS’ ALLEGATIONS ABOUT THE SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF RELIEF REQUESTED IS NOT OF ARGUABLE MERIT
The Defendant argues that you erred by requesting a specific amount of damages in your first prayer for relief.
Defendant’s allegation will most possibly be denied by the Court. In considering the Defendant’s allegations under 231 Pa. Code § 1028(a)(2), the Court must first determine whether the issue underlying the charge of ineffectiveness is of arguable merit. Commonwealth v. Sherard, 483 Pa. 183, 394 A.2d 971 (1978). You had reasonable basis to claim the specific amount. Notably, you claimed the specific amount based on the injuries and damage you suffered as a result of Defendant’s actions and/or inactions. Besides, you left the Court to decide on the amount of punitive damages to award.
Also note that if the underlying issue is found to be of arguable merit, the Court’s inquiry shifts to a determination of whether the course chosen by you had some reasonable basis aimed at promoting your interests. Commonwealth v. Evans, 489 Pa. 85, 413 A.2d 1025, 1028 (1980). Indeed, the amount of relief you requested was based on the injuries you suffered. Therefore, the Defendants are totally wrong in their allegation.
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