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Punitive Damages Denied In Red Light Auto Case (PA)

May 5, 2023

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In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Koch-v.-Lawson-1.pdf">Koch v. Lawson</a>, </em>2023 U.S. Dist. Lexis 65802, 2023 WL 2923139, a Pennsylvania Court held that simply driving through a red light did not rise to the level to warrant punitive damages. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages are proper, "when a person's actions are of such an outrageous nature as to demonstrate intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct."  In order to seek punitive damages, a plaintiff must aver facts in his complaint and not mere conclusions.

The Plaintiff sought punitive damages after sustaining serious and permanent injuries when a tractor and trailer ran a red light a struck the Plaintiff’s vehicle. The Plaintiff alleged that the truck driver violated many traffic laws, including driving while being distracted or fatigued and falling asleep while driving.

The Plaintiff failed to plead in his fact section of his complaint that the trucker driver was asleep at the wheel instead it only alleges that the truck driver violated traffic law. The court held that at most the Plaintiff only alleged that the truck driver failed to comply with traffic laws, and that is insufficient for punitive damages.

Thanks to Jean Scanlan for her contribution to this article.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="tbracken@wcmlaw.com">Tom Bracken</a>.

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