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Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers, Inc

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Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Civil Procedure Keyed to Friedenthal

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.139 F. Supp. 408 (E.D. Pa. 1956)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging Plaintiff was injured by a forklift owned Defendant and operated by Defendant’s employee, which Defendant generally denied in its answer to the complaint. After the statute of limitations had passed, discovery revealed that Defendant did not own the forklift and Defendant’s employee was not operating the forklift. Plaintiff sought a pretrial order that Defendant admitted ownership of the forklift and agency of the operator of the forklift, on the grounds that Defendant’s general denial was ineffective.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under Rule 8(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, allegations in a complaint that are not specifically denied are deemed admitted.

Facts. Plaintiff Zielinski sued Philadelphia Piers, Inc., Defendant, alleging that a forklift, owned by Defendant, caused Plaintiff’s injuries that occurred when Plaintiff was in a collision with another forklift on a pier. Defendant generally denied this section of the complaint. Carload Contractors, Inc., the employer of the operator of the other forklift, filed a claim with their insurance company regarding the accident. Defendant sent a letter to its insurance company stating that Plaintiff was injured by a forklift. In addition, Defendant asked the insurance company to answer that the complaint should be filed against Carload Contractors and not Defendant because the forklift was operated by Sandy Johnson, an employee of Carload Contractors. Defendant was also aware of this error and investigated whether Defendant and not Carload Contractors, owned the forklift. Johnson stated he was Defendant’s employee in his deposition. At a pre-trial conference over two and a half years late
r, Plaintiff first found out that over a year before the accident, the business of moving freight on the pier was sold from Defendant to Carload Contractors. Johnson was thus transferred to Carload Contractors’ payroll, but was unaware of the change. Defendant admitted that it owned the forklift, which was leased to Carload Contractors. Plaintiff sought a declaration that Defendant owned the forklift and that the employee driving the forklift was Defendant’s employee.

Issue. Was the general denial by Defendant to Plaintiff’s allegations that Plaintiff was injured by a forklift owned by Defendant effective to deny that Defendant owned the forklift?
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