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What is the basis to seek punitive damages in a truck accident lawsuit? How dangerous are drivers of tractor trailers and there employers?

The federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania recently issued a ruling in a trucking accident case where injury was sustained. The case is Guerra v. New Prime, Inc., 2012 WL 2979064 (W.D. Pa. July 20, 2012) and deals with the Plaintiff's motion to amend the Ad Damnum clause in the Complaint to seek punitive damages. The District Court finds that the tractor trailer driver traveling at an excessive rate of speed while approaching an accident scene who collides into the rear of plaintiff's vehicle may be subject to being responsible for punitive damages, based upon the discovery.

The court also grants the plaintiff's motion to amend Ad Damnum clause to include a request for punitives against the driver and driver's employer. The law states that a punitive damages claim must be supported by evidence showing that the defendant had subjective appreciation of risk of harm to plaintiff and that defendant acted or failed to act in conscious disregard of that risk . In this case, the plaintiff alleged sufficient facts against driver and against the trucking company in that trucking company was aware that its driver was reported to be immature, had difficulty grasping safe driving habits and did not take instruction well . Given these facts, the Motion to Amend is granted.

If you want a copy of the opinion and order please contact Scott Cooper at Schmidt Kramer.

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