The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conaboy
Here we consider Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26) filed on October 18, 2007. (Doc. 2-1.) The Court previously granted this motion on the procedural basis that Plaintiff Thomas J. Evanko ("Plaintiff") did not timely file a brief in opposition. (Doc. 32.) However, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 43) by Order of January 3, 2008, (Doc. 47). Following completion of the briefing schedule, the Court heard oral argument on March 6, 2008, and we now consider the merits of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26).
In its Motion and supporting documents, Defendant Management and Training Corporation ("Defendant") seeks judgment in its favor on Plaintiff's claim that it acted negligently in the supervision of three students who left its Keystone Job Corps facility in Drums, Pennsylvania, without permission, the trio subsequently threatened Plaintiff at a mall parking lot in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, and one of them struck Plaintiff in the face causing a broken jaw (Doc. 1-3). (Doc. 27 at 7.) Defendant also contends that summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages because it did not act in a manner that was wanton and reckless such that an award of punitive damages could be warranted. (Doc. 27 at 13.) On January 10, 2008, Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 48.) Defendant filed its reply brief on January 17, 2008. (Doc. 56.) As noted above, the Court also heard oral argument on Defendant's motion on March 6, 2008.
For the reasons discussed below, we conclude Defendant has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We further conclude that summary judgment is proper because Plaintiff has not come forward with the evidence necessary to show the existence of an essential element of his claim.
Defendant is a corporation headquartered in Utah which has a contract with the Department of Labor, Job Corps. Division, to operate the Keystone Job Corps ("Job Corps") facility in Drums, Pennsylvania. Defendant has operated this facility for at least fifteen (15) years. Although there are some non-residential students, Job Corps is a residential facility which provides room and board, and training and supervision of its students. Attendance at the facility is voluntary. Students attend Job Corps for up to two years. The program provides academic and vocational training as well as personal and professional skill development. Some of the students are minors (under age eighteen (18)) and the facility must obtain the permission of the minor's legal guardian for the student to leave the premises. This means that a student who leaves the Center for a period of time like a weekend must have the permission of a parent or guardian to obtain the required pass. All students are allowed to participate in activities or shopping trips that are run by the Center.
The facility in Drums is not a fenced facility. However, the rules require that students be on site unless given permission to go off site. If a student goes off site without permission, it is a disciplinary infraction and appropriate procedures are followed. The Center Director, Thomas Fitzwater, testified by way of deposition that monitoring of students took place throughout the day while attending classes in that teachers take rolls. This occurs until approximately 3:15 p.m. The next check is the midnight dorm check. Defendant has a security staff that patrols the grounds.
The incident underlying this action took place on November 5, 2005, when three students from the Job Corps were transported to the Laurel Mall by Defendant and went to the parking lot of the Regal Cinema in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 21.) The students were Joshua Michael Calero-Rodriguez ("Calero-Rodriguez") (a minor at the time), Sean Everett Caskey ("Caskey") (also a minor), and Anthony Leroy Spencer, Jr., ("Spencer") (an adult). The students were not authorized to leave the facility. The first notice Defendant had that the students were not on site was a call from the State Police who were investigating the incident underlying this case.
The students allegedly began to threaten violence and intimidation and demand money from teenagers gathered in the parking lot. (Doc. 1-3 ¶¶ 22-23.) Plaintiff refused to give the students money when they demanded it of him and sustained injuries when struck by Calero-Rodriguez. (Doc. 1-3 ¶¶ 24-25.) The injuries included headaches and a broken jaw which required several surgical procedures. (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 26.)
Based on this incident, Calero-Rodriguez and Caskey were charged with crimes in juvenile court and Spencer was charged with and pled guilty to one (1) count of Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 903, in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. 1-3 ¶¶ 29-30.)
Plaintiff asserts that this incident gives rise to a claim for negligence against Defendant in that Defendant neglected its supervision duties in several ways, including the following:
1) failure to properly supervise the minor defendants; 2) breach of duties in loco parentis supervision of the minor defendants; 3) Defendant knew, or should have known of the students' violent and abusive tendencies and/or behavior; 4) negligently entrusting the students to a person who was not properly trained and/or did not properly perform supervision/control duties; and 5) violation of Job Corps policies and procedures. (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 31.) Plaintiff also claims Defendant's actions "were wanton and reckless and in total disregard of Plaintiff's rights." (Doc. 1-3 ¶ 37.)
In his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks damages "in excess of $50,000 for pain and suffering, medical bills and punitive damages, and any and all other relief this Honorable Court deems just and ...