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A Panel of The Superior Court Holds That Punitive Damages May Not be Added After the Statute of Limitations Has Expired.

July 18th, 2017

In Khaalid Amir Wilson, et al v. U.S. Security Associates, Inc., et al, 2017 WL 3034031, 2017 Pa. Super 226 (July 18, 2017), a three judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that it was legally incorrect to permit the addition of a clam for punitive damages after the statute of limitations had expired.  In this case, the Plaintiff had stipulated to resolve preliminary objections to a claim for punitive damages by agreeing to dismiss the claim without prejudice.  Plaintiff then filed a motion for leave to amend to add punitive damages after the statute of limitations had expired.  The trial court granted the motion, and the Superior Court reversed the denial of JNOV as to punitive damages.  However, it must be noted that the Superior Court cited no authority whatsoever for its holding, and even quoted Hilbert v. Roth, 149 A.2d 648, 652 (Pa. 1959), where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that, “The right to punitive damages is a mere incident to a cause of action – an element which the jury may consider in making its determination – and not the subject of an action in itself.”   In Hilbert the Court held that a punitive damages claim against a second tortfeasor was no longer available because the plaintiff had already settled his claim for compensatory damages with the first tortfeasor.   The Superior Court merely stated that “in full context, the actual holding in Hilbert offers scant support for Appellees’ claim in this appeal.”  The Superior Court also  held that permitting punitive damages to be added was an abuse of discretion based on a contract theory in connection with the parties’ stipulation.  (Fn. 27).  Before Dubow, J., Ransom, J. and Platt, J.  Opinion by Platt, a retired senior judge assigned to the Superior Court.

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