Superior Court denies appeal of plaintiffs who say clerical error listed wrong driver in accident

By Shanice Harris | Mar 23, 2017

HARRISBURG — The Superior Court has affirmed a trial court decision to deny a couple's motion to amend a complaint, dismissing their automobile accident lawsuit.

The court ruled March 7 against Janet and Robert Adams, who had appealed a Beaver County Court of Common Pleas order denying their motion to amend their original complaint. 

In 2013, Janet Adams’ vehicle and a car owned by Karen Reese, driven by her son Dane Reese, were involved in an accident. Janet Adams sustained injuries and damages as a result of the car accident. Both parties' insurance companies negotiated the liabilities but could not come to an agreement.

Because of this, a complaint was filed by the Adamses in May 2015. The Reeses were served the lawsuit several days later.

The complaint listed David Reese, Dane's father and Janet's husband, as the operator of the vehicle during the crash. In June of that same year, the Reeses filed an answer and new matter, stating that David was not the driver of the car and that Dane was in fact the driver. Dane was not originally named a defendant.

Later that year, the Adamses contended that a system error had made a mistake by listing the wrong name as the driver of the vehicle. The motion was opposed by the Reeses because they stated that the Adamses were prohibited from amending their own complaint. The Adamses’ motion was denied.

As a result, the Reeses filed a motion for summary judgement, which the trial court granted. The Adamses raised several issues, according to court documents. They raised the question as to whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow the plaintiffs to change their complaint after the statute of limitations had expired, and whether the court should have involved Dane Reese in the proceedings.

The Adamses questioned why their motion was denied, stating they were not adding a new party to the complaint, merely fixing a clerical error. They also insisted that service was properly made at Dane Reese’s address.

In the end, the Superior Court rejected the argument that the motion to amend was simply to correct a typographical error.

“We agree with the trial court that the Adamses listed a completely different person as a defendant and therefore, allowing the complaint to be amended after the statute of limitations had run would be permitting the Adamses to add a new and distinct party, which our case law expressly disallows,” according to the decision.

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