United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
GRIGORIY N. VOROBEY and VERA VOROBEY, his spouse, Plaintiffs.
CLEVELAND BROTHERS EQUIPMENT CO. INC. and KEITH W. BRYSON, Defendants.
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
action was commenced in the Supreme Court of the State of New
York, County of Erie on May 31, 2017. It was subsequently
removed to the United States District Court for the Western
District of New York on November 2, 2017, and transferred to
this Court on April 5, 2018. On May 29, 2018, Defendants
Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co., Inc. and Keith W. Bryson
filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the
Pleadings. Plaintiffs Grigoriy N. Vorobey and Vera
Vorobey filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended
Complaint on June 29, 2018. Both of these motions are
were involved in a multi-vehicle accident with fatalities in
Tioga County, Pennsylvania on August 3, 2016. On that date,
Defendant Keith W. Bryson was the operator of a motor vehicle
owned by co-Defendant Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co.,
Defendant Bryson operated this vehicle with the consent of
Defendant Cleveland Brothers and in the ordinary scope of his
employment. On State Route 15 in the Town of Bloss,
Tioga County, Defendant Bryson came into contact with
Plaintiffs' vehicle, and, as a result of this negligent
act, caused other vehicles to also come into contact with
Plaintiffs' vehicle. In Defendants Bryson and Cleveland
Brothers' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, they
request that this Court dismiss Plaintiffs' request for
punitive damages and claim for negligent/reckless entrustment
based on insufficient factual matter. Plaintiffs thereafter filed
a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint fully
compliant with the federal venue and jurisdiction
purposes of judicial economy, the Court will first address
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended
Complaint. Indeed, granting such leave would necessarily
render the amended complaint a nullity and the pending motion
for judgment on the pleadings moot. Under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 15(a), this Court “should freely give
leave” to amend a complaint “when justice so
desires.” Leave to amend may be denied when plaintiff
has engaged in undue delay or bad faith, or when amendment
would be futile or would prejudice the
defendant. Here, Defendants Bryson and Cleveland
Brothers oppose Plaintiff's request for leave to amend,
arguing that such amendment would be futile as the Second
Amended Complaint, as written, does not support their claim
for punitive damages. At this stage of the proceedings, I
Pennsylvania law, punitive damages are only available to
compensate “for conduct that is outrageous, because of
the defendant's evil motive or his reckless indifference
to the rights of others.” Fundamentally, punitive
damages are penal in nature; the objective is to punish a
tortfeasor for his outrageous conduct and to deter him from
similar conduct in the future. Accordingly, a punitive
damages claim must be supported by sufficient evidence to
establish: (1) that the defendant had a subjective
appreciation of the risk of harm to which the plaintiff was
exposed; and (2) that he acted or failed to act in conscious
disregard of that risk.
reviewed the proposed Second Amended Complaint in the light
most favorable to Plaintiffs, I find that allowing amendment
through the filing of this complaint would not be futile.
While Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' allegations fall
short of the showing of recklessness necessary to sustain
punitive damages, I note the relative nascent nature of this
litigation and this Court's expressed hesitance to
dismiss such damages prior to meaningful
discovery. Here, without the benefit of such
discovery, Plaintiffs' allegations of recklessness
against Defendants Bryson and Cleveland Brothers suffice
under the plausibility standard. Furthermore, given this
finding that amendment would not be futile and that
Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint may be filed,
Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, based
on an inoperative amended complaint, is denied as moot.
these reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a
Second Amended Complaint will be granted, and Defendants'
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings will be denied as moot.
An appropriate Order follows.
 ECF No. 1.
 ECF Nos. 17-18.
 ECF No. 26.
 ECF No. 32.
 ECF Nos. 27, 33, & 34.