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Snider v. Sterling Airways, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 8, 2017

ELIZABETH C. SNIDER, Individually and as Executrix of the Estate of DANIEL A. SNIDER, and LEE W. SNIDER, a minor, by his mother, ELIZABETH C. SNIDER Plaintiffs
v.
STERLING AIRWAYS, INC., and CONTINENTAL MOTORS, INC., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOYNER, J.

         This wrongful death/products liability action is once again before the Court on Motion of the Plaintiffs for Delay Damages (Doc. No. 429). In accordance with the following rationale, the motion shall be granted.

         Factual Background

         Following a nearly four-week trial, a jury found in favor of the Plaintiffs, the wife and young son of decedent Daniel Snider, and against Defendant Continental Motors, Inc. (“CMI”) finding CMI solely liable for Mr. Snider's wrongful death in a 2010 plane crash. Damages in the amount of $2, 753, 048.49 were awarded to Plaintiffs. Post-trial, CMI moved for a new trial and/or to alter or amend the judgment and renewed its previously-filed motion for entry of judgment in its favor as a matter of law. Finding no merit in either motion, this Court denied both. By the motion now before us, Plaintiffs move for the entry of delay damages pursuant to Pa. R. C.P. 238. Defendant CMI opposes this motion and submits that it should either be denied in its entirety or alternatively, that a significantly lesser amount of such damages should be awarded.

         Principles Underlying Rule 238

         It is by now well-settled that Rule 238 is deemed to be a substantive rule of Pennsylvania law which must be followed by federal courts sitting in diversity cases. Kirk v. Raymark Industries, Inc., 61 F.3d 147, 168 (3d Cir. 1995)(citing Fauber v. KEM Transportation and Equipment Co., 876 F.2d 327, 328 (3d Cir. 1989)); Barnes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Civ. A. No. 06-1356, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44356 at * 3 (E.D. Pa. March 26, 2009); Lancenese v. Vanderlans & Sons, Civ. A. No. 05-5951, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3568 at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 13, 2009). “Rule 238 permits a successful plaintiff in certain civil actions to recover damages for delay, i.e., interest on the amount of his or her award.” Arthur v. Kuchar, 546 Pa. 12, 682 A.2d 1250, 1253 (1996).

         “The purpose of Rule 238 is twofold: ‘(1) to alleviate delay in the courts, and (2) to encourage defendants to settle meritorious claims as soon as reasonably possible.'” Id. (citing Pa. R. C. P. 238, 1988 Explanatory Comment, Laudenberger v. Port Authority of Allegheny County, 496 Pa. 52, 436 A.2d 147 (1981), and Craig v. Magee Memorial Rehabilitation Center, 512 Pa. 60, 515 A.2d 1350 (1986)); Krebs v. United Refining Co., 2006 PA Super. 31, 46, 893 A.2d 776, 795 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2006). “Delay damages do not penalize a defendant that chooses to go to court; they simply do not permit a defendant to profit from holding money that belongs to the plaintiff by requiring the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of the use of that money during the time the defendant held it.” Shamnoski v. PG Energy, 2000 PA Super 367, 765 A.2d 297, 305-306 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2000)(quoting Costa v. Lauderdale Beach Hotel, 534 Pa. 154, 626 A.2d 566, 570 (1993)).

         Specifically, Rule 238 reads as follows in pertinent part:

Rule 238. Damages for Delay in Actions for Bodily Injury, Death or Property Damage
(a)(1) At the request of the plaintiff in a civil action seeking monetary relief for bodily injury, death or property damage, damages for delay shall be added to the amount of compensatory damages awarded against each defendant or additional defendant found to be liable to the plaintiff in the verdict of a jury, in the decision of the court in a nonjury trial or in the award of arbitrators appointed under section 7361 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C. S. §7361, and shall become part of the verdict, decision or award.
(2) Damages for delay shall be awarded for the period of time from a date one year after the date original process was first served in the action up to the date of the award, verdict or decision.
(3) Damages for delay shall be calculated at the rate equal to the prime rate as listed in the first edition of the Wall Street Journal published for each calendar year for which the damages are awarded, plus one percent, not compounded.
(b)(1) The period of time for which damages for delay shall be calculated under subdivision (a)(2) shall exclude the period of time, if any,
(i) after the defendant made a written offer which complied with the requirements of subdivision (b)(2), provided that the plaintiff obtained a recovery which did not exceed the ...

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