Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

GUERNSEY v. COUNTRY LIVING PERSONAL CARE HOME

October 26, 2005.

LILLIAN GUERNSEY, by and through her Conservator, THOMAS ITTERLY, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTRY LIVING PERSONAL CARE HOME(S), INC., SHIRLEY D. SHERIDAN a/k/a SHIRLEY D. SHERRIDAN and SHIRLEY D. SHERIDAN a/k/a SHIRLEY D. SHERRIDAN d/b/a COUNTRY LIVING PERSONAL CARE HOME, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. The plaintiff is Lillian Guernsey by and through her Conservator, Thomas Itterley, ("Guernsey" or "plaintiff") and the defendants are Country Living Personal Care Home(s), Inc., Shirley D. Sheridan a/k/a Shirley d. Sherridan and Shirley D. Sheridan a/k/a Shirley D. Sherridan d/b/a Country Living Person Care Home (collectively referred to as "Country Living" or "defendants"). Guernsey has brought suit to recover damages for a sexual assault that she alleges took place at Country Living while she was a resident there. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background

  The basic background facts are undisputed by the parties. Defendant Country Living is a Pennsylvania corporation with the designated purpose of operating a personal care home. The home is located in Nicholson, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, and its sole owner is Defendant Shirley Sheridan. (Pl. Ex. A, Sheridan Dep. at 17). The home first opened in October of 2001 with Laura Wickizer as the designated administrator. (Pl. Ex. C, Wickizer Dep. at 24, 31). Wickizer is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as a personal care home administrator. (Pl. Ex. C, Wickizer Dep. at 13).

  Plaintiff Lillian Guernsey was a resident of Country Living in Nicholson, Pennsylvania. At the relevant time, she was eighty-six years of age, and had suffered from moderate dementia since at least August 2000. Beginning on October 26, 2001, Daniel Statham also resided at Country Living. Statham, a thirty-one year old man, was on probation after serving six years in prison for aggravated indecent assault. Statham is mentally retarded. (Pl. Ex. C, Wickizer Dep. at 27-28). He was on probation for six months for failing to provide his probation office with an address in violation of "Megan's Law." (Def. Ex. L, Moser Dep. at 33-34, 43). Statham moved into the facility in October of 2001. On February 27, 2002, he sexually assaulted Plaintiff Guernsey.

  Subsequently, plaintiff filed the instant complaint alleging the following four counts: 1) Negligence (against all defendants) in, inter alia, failing to protect the plaintiff and properly supervise her and Statham, 2) Negligence against Shirley Sheridan individually; 3) Negligence, vicarious liability, against all defendants; and 4) Negligence, independent liability, against the businesses. (See Doc. 1, Compl.) Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants have moved for partial summary judgment. They seek judgment on the punitive damages claim and the independent liability claim against the businesses.

  Standard of review

  Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

  In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

  Discussion

  Defendants move for judgment on plaintiff's claim for punitive damages and on Count Four for independent liability against the businesses. We will address these issues separately. I. Punitive Damages

  Each count of plaintiff's complaint contains a claim for punitive damages. Defendants assert that the evidence of record does not support a claim for punitive damages. After a careful review, we disagree with the defendants and shall deny summary judgment on the punitive damages claims.

 
The standard governing the award of punitive damages in Pennsylvania is settled. Punitive damages may be awarded for conduct that is outrageous, because of the defendant's evil motive or his reckless indifference to the rights of others. . . . [W]hen assessing the propriety of the imposition of punitive damages, [t]he state of mind of the actor is vital. The act, or the failure to act, must be intentional, reckless or malicious.
Hutchison ex rel. Hutchison v. Luddy, 870 A.2d 766, 770 (Pa. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

  Moreover, "in Pennsylvania, a punitive damages claim must be supported by evidence sufficient to establish that (1) a defendant had a subjective appreciation of the risk of harm to which the plaintiff was exposed and that (2) he acted, or failed to act, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.