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Wilson v. TA Operating LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2017

PATTY C. WILSON, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of Jerry Wilson, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
TA OPERATING, LLC, and TRESTON WESLEY HARRIS, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         BACKGROUND:

         1. In October 2011, tractor trailer driver Jerry Wilson was traveling along Interstate 80 East in Clinton County, Pennsylvania when his front brakes caught fire.

         2. Mr. Wilson extinguished the flames and guided his rig to the nearest service center, TA Operating, LLC, in Lamar.

         3. The primary technician who serviced the truck, Treston Wesley Harris, knew about the fire, and after purportedly repairing Mr. Wilson's brakes, sent him on his way.

         4. Just minutes later and about fifteen miles east of the repair shop, Mr. Wilson's brakes caught fire once more.

         5. In an effort to put out the flames, Mr. Wilson experienced a form of cardiac arrest and died.

         6. Plaintiff brought this wrongful death and survival action in February 2013, wherein she requested an award of punitive damages.

         7. Defendants later moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's punitive damages claim.

         8. On February 13, 2017, this Court rejected that motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 168.

         9. The Court applied the following standards, as dictated by the law of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and federal courts that have interpreted it:

“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.” Hutchison ex rel. Hutchison v. Luddy, 582 Pa. 114, 121.
“The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that, under Pennsylvania law, a principal may be held vicariously liable for punitive damages if the actions of its agent (1) were clearly outrageous, (2) were committed during and within the scope of the agent's duties, and (3) were done with the intent to further the principal's interests.” Achey v. Crete Carrier Corp., No. 07-CV-3592, 2009 WL 9083282, at *10 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 30, 2009) (citing Loughman v. Consol-Pennsylvania Coal Co., 6 F.3d 88, 101 (3d Cir.1993)). “[T]he standard for both direct and vicarious liability for punitive damages is ordinary outrageousness.” Gregory v. Sewell, No. 4:CV-04-2438, 2006 WL 2707405, at *11 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 2006) (Jones, J.).

         10. In denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment, I reasoned that, as applied to the facts of the case, the propriety of punitive damages ...


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