Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers, Inc. case brief (139 F.Supp. 408)

Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers, Inc.
139 F.Supp. 408 (1956)


Jurisdiction: United States District Court, Eastern Dist. of Pennsylvania.


FACTS
-Zielinski (P) was operating a forklift for J. A. McCarthy, Inc. when he was injured by Sandy Johnson.
-P sued Philadelphia Piers, Inc. (D) and alleged his injuries were caused by Sandy Johnson’s negligent operation of a forklift owned by Philadelphia Piers.
-P alleged that Johnson was an employee and agent of Philadelphia Piers at the time of the accident.
-Johnson had worked for Philadelphia Piers for 15 years and was not aware that the company had transferred ownership of the operation and that he had actually been working for Carload Contractors, Inc.
-Johnson mistakenly testified that he had been working for Philadelphia Piers. Philadelphia Piers had made a general denial of the allegations in the complaint but did not clarify that it had transferred the operation to Carload Contractors.
-Carload, Philadelphia Piers, and the insurance company that provided insurance to both companies were aware of Zielinski’s error. Zielinski did not discover that he had sued the wrong company until the pretrial conference. Zielinski moved to estop Philadelphia Piers from denying the facts alleged in the complaint because the company had allowed him to believe that they were true.

ISSUE

May a defendant be estopped from denying alleged facts in a complaint if he has made an ineffective denial of those facts and knowingly allows a plaintiff to continue to rely on them?

HOLDING

Yes. A defendant who knowingly makes inaccurate statements may be estopped from denying those statements at trial.

RULES

Under these circumstances, principles of equity require that D be estopped from denying agency because, otherwise, its inaccurate statements and statements in the record, which it knew (or had the means of knowing) were inaccurate, will have deprived P of his right of action.

APPLICATION

If Interrogatory 2 had been answered accurately by saying that employees of Carload Contractors, Inc. had turned the matter over to the insurance company, P would have realized his mistake.

NOTES

-A general denial may be made only when the defendant intends in good faith to deny all of the plaintiff’s allegations.
-A denial of only part of the allegations requires a specific denial of the parts that are denied, and an indication of which parts are true.

-Under FRCP 11 there is a requirement of good faith in pleading.
-Under FRCP 8(b), a denial must fairly meet the substance of the averments denied.
-A party can admit, deny, or plead insufficient information to answer different parts of a complaint.


Link to Case: 
139 F.Supp. 408 (1956)



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1 comment:

  1. Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers, Inc., 139 F.Supp. 408 (E.D. Pa. 1956).

    Facts: Zielinski (P) was operating a forklift for J. A. McCarthy, Inc. when he was injured by Sandy Johnson. Zielinski sued Philadelphia Piers, Inc. (D) and alleged his injuries were caused by Sandy Johnson’s negligent operation of a forklift owned by Philadelphia Piers. Zielinski alleged that Johnson was an employee and agent of Philadelphia Piers at the time of the accident.

    Sandy Johnson had worked for Philadelphia Piers for 15 years and was not aware that the company had transferred ownership of the operation and that he had in fact been working for Carload Contractors, Inc. Johnson mistakenly testified that he had been working for Philadelphia Piers. Philadelphia Piers had made a general denial of the allegations in the complaint but did not clarify that it had transferred the operation to Carload Contractors.

    Carload, Philadelphia Piers, and the insurance company that provided insurance to both companies were aware of Zielinski’s error. Zielinski did not discover that he had sued the wrong company until the pretrial conference. Zielinski moved to estop Philadelphia Piers from denying the facts alleged in the complaint because the company had allowed him to believe that they were true.

    Issue: May a defendant be estopped from denying alleged facts in a complaint if he has made an ineffective denial of those facts and knowingly allows a plaintiff to continue to rely on them?

    Holding and Rule: Yes. A defendant who knowingly makes inaccurate statements may be estopped from denying those statements at trial.

    A general denial is ineffective if some of the claims denied are true and not at issue. The court held that Philadelphia Piers should have made a specific denial of the parts of the complaint it knew to be false and admitted the parts which were true. A specific denial would have warned Zielinski of his mistake. Under Pennsylvania law, when an improper and ineffective answer has been filed and the time allowed to amend the answer has passed, a party will be estopped from denying the allegation and any improper allegations will be deemed as true. Philadelphia Piers did not have a right to knowingly foster a mistake by its acts of omission. The court held that Philadelphia Piers was estopped from denying the agency of Sandy Johnson and the company’s ownership of the forklift. The court reasoned that if Zielinski’s complaint were dismissed he would be deprived of his day in court.

    Disposition: For Zielinski; motion for a statement to the jury of the agency relationship granted.

    Notes: A general denial may be made only when the defendant intends in good faith to deny all of the plaintiff’s allegations. A denial of only part of the allegations requires a specific denial of the parts that are denied, and an indication of which parts are true.

    Under FRCP 11 there is a requirement of good faith in pleading. Under FRCP 8(b), a denial must fairly meet the substance of the averments denied. A party can admit, deny, or plead insufficient information to answer different parts of a complaint.

    ReplyDelete

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