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Piazza v. Young

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 19, 2019

JAMES PIAZZA and EVELYN PIAZZA, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRENDAN YOUNG, DANIEL Y, BRAXTON BECKER, MICHAEL BONATUCCI, RYAN BURKE, JERRY COYNE, GARY DIBILEO, JR., JOSEPH EMS, Y FUNK, EDWARD JAMES GILMARTIN, III, CRAIG HEIMER, JONATHAN KANZLER, LARS KENYON, NICHOLAS KUBERA, JOSHUA KURCZEWSKI, JONATHAN MARTINES, ADAM MENGDEN, JOSHUA MONCKTON, JONAH NEUMAN, AIDAN O'BRIEN, DONALD PRIOR, MATTHEW REINMUND, LUCAS ROCKWELL, JOSEPH SALA, MICHAEL ANGELO SCHIAVONE, BOHAN SONG, LUKE VISSER, PARKER YOCHIM, and ST. MORITZ SECURITY SERVICES, INC. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs James and Evelyn Piazza alleged, among other things, that Defendants Brendan Young, Gary DiBileo, Edward Gilmartin, and Jonathan Martines were negligent in their providing aid to the decedent, Timothy Piazza, after Timothy fell down the stairs of Defendants' fraternity house on February 2, 2017. My August 27, 2019 Memorandum Opinion (the “August 27 Opinion”) dismissed this claim and gave the Piazzas leave to amend.[1] On September 17, 2019, the Piazzas filed their First Amended Complaint (“FAC”).[2] Defendants Gilmartin and Martines moved to again dismiss the Piazzas' after-the-fall negligence claim on September 26 and 27, 2019, respectively.[3] As discussed below, Gilmartin's motion will be denied, and Martines' motion will be granted.

         I. NEW FACTS IN THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT THAT ARE RELEVANT TO GILMARTIN AND MARTINES' MOTIONS TO DISMISS[4]

         A. Facts Specific to Gilmartin

         Gilmartin was aware that his conduct in planning the Alpha Upsilon Chapter's February 2, 2017 Bid Acceptance Night, and associated Gauntlet of drinking events, had rendered Timothy Piazza helpless and in danger of further harm.[5]

         The Alpha Upsilon Chapter Defendants, including Jonah Neuman and Gilmartin, discouraged other Alpha Upsilon members from contacting 911, taking Timothy Piazza to the hospital, or otherwise seeking assistance for Timothy Piazza.[6] Neuman and Gilmartin instead instructed or otherwise coordinated with their fellow Alpha Upsilon members to provide assistance or attempt to aid Piazza at the fraternity house.[7]

         B. Facts Specific to Martines

         Martines was aware that his conduct in planning Bid Acceptance Night and the Gauntlet had rendered Timothy Piazza helpless and in danger of further harm.[8]

         C. General Facts

         After Timothy Piazza's fall, all the Alpha Upsilon Chapter Defendants, including Gilmartin and Martines, were aware that their conduct had rendered Timothy Piazza helpless and in danger of further harm.[9] After Timothy Piazza's fall, all of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter Defendants, including Gilmartin and Martines, rendered no further aid, or took insufficient actions to address Timothy Piazza's injuries.[10]

         II. DISCUSSION

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, [11] a court assumes the truth of all factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all inferences in favor of that party.[12] The court does not, however, assume the truth of any of the complaint's legal conclusions.[13] If a complaint's factual allegations, so treated, state a claim that is plausible-i.e., if they allow the court to infer the defendant's liability-the motion is denied; if they fail to do so, the motion is granted.[14]

         A. The Piazzas' Additional Restatement Arguments

         In the August 27 Opinion, I stated that “the Piazzas may amend their Complaint to allege facts showing that these Defendants voluntarily assumed a duty of care under Section 324 of the Second Restatement of Torts.”[15] In opposing Gilmartin and Martines' motions to dismiss, the Piazzas make other arguments for liability under Sections 322 and 324A of the Second Restatement of Torts.[16]

         A plaintiff's exceeding the scope of an order granting leave to amend is permissible when, as here, (a) the new information is closely related to what the plaintiff provided initially, (b) the “general theories of recovery remain the same, ” and (c) the defendants were not “deprived of an opportunity to respond to the new allegations.”[17] Therefore, I will consider the Piazzas' other arguments for liability in resolving Gilmartin and Martines' motions to dismiss.[18]

         B. Gilmartin's and Martines' Liability Under Section 322

         In opposing Martines' motion to dismiss, the Piazzas concede that they cannot argue that Martines is liable under Section 324.[19] Instead, they argue that Martines is liable under Section 322.[20] The Piazzas also argue that Gilmartin is liable under Section 322.[21]

         Section 322 provides that if an “actor knows or has reason to know that by his conduct, whether tortious or innocent, he has caused such bodily harm to another as to make him helpless and in danger of further harm, the actor is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent such further harm.”[22]

         As I discussed in the August 27 Opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in Congini by Congini v. Portersville Valve Co., recognized the “social host” theory of liability in situations where the host was an adult and the guest was an individual under 21 years of age. In those situations, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court premised a defendant's liability on a negligence-per-se theory.[23] In Herr v. Booten, the Pennsylvania Superior Court then limited liability under Section 322 for a defendant who had furnished alcohol to a minor only if the defendant was “ultimately held liable to some extent for [the decedent's] death under the Congini decision”-that is, if the defendant was liable as a “social host” under Congini.[24]As I noted in the August 27 Opinion, in Kapres v. Heller, “the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the social host doctrine”-as Congini cognized it-“may not be used to hold minors liable for serving alcohol to other minors.”[25]

         Given the progression of Congini, Herr, and Kapres, neither Gilmartin nor Martines are liable under Section 322, because on February 2, 2017, they were both minors serving alcohol to another minor.[26] The Court accordingly grants Martines' motion to dismiss and dismisses Count III (after-the-fall negligence) as to Martines.

         C. Gilmartin's ...


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