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The Court of Common Pleas in Northampton County issued an opinion on January 11, 2012 by Judge Leonard N. Zito in the case of Xander v. Kiss, CV – 2010 – 11945 (Zito J., North. Co. Jan. 11, 2012). In this Order and Statement of Reasons Judge Zito dismisses a claim for punitive damages when it is alleged the Defendant driver crossed lanes of travel and caused an accident while talking on a cell phone. The claim for punitive damages was pursued under the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 908. The trial court notes that punitive damages are an extreme remedy available only in the most exceptional of circumstances, Judge Zito rules that the allegations in the Complaint, without more, do not rise to the level of egregiousness required by Pennsylvania law to support such a claim.

The trial court writes that viewing the facts pled in the Complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, it was only alleged by the Plaintiff that the “Defendant simply lost control of his vehicle while speaking on his cellular phone, causing a motor vehicle accident….” He notes that such alleged facts may support a claim of negligence, but the allegations do not arise to a level of an evil motive or reckless indifference to the rights of the plaintiff as required for a punitive damages claim. Without any other facts pled to show recklessness, such as excessive speed or running a red light or stop sign, etc., the court holds that a punitive damages claim is not warranted in this matter.

Accordingly, the defendant’s motion to strike the punitive damages claim is granted.

For a copy of the order feel free to contact Scott Cooper at SchmidtKramer Injury Lawyers.

Scott B. Cooper
Schmidt Kramer PC
209 State Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 232-6300 – Telephone
(717) 232-6467 – Facsimile

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