PHILADELPHIA — A request made by defendants American Honda Finance Corp., Richard and Associates and repossession agent Tyler to dismiss several claims related to an allegedly unlawful repossession, assault, battery and conversion was partially denied and partially granted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Plaintiff Katherine Engle alleged that she was cursed at and shoved, causing an injury to her shoulder, when the defendants repossessed her vehicle, according to the district court ruling.

On Feb. 17, the district court declined to dismiss four non-intentional tort claims but granted the defendants’ request for dismissal of Engle’s two claims for an award of treble and/or punitive damages and three claims for assault and battery, conversion and trespass.

According to the ruling, “Engle pleads conduct sufficient to allege a breach of the peace, including being subjected to profanity and being physically pushed, causing a shoulder contusion.” 

As a result, the district court said two counts will not be dismissed now because they “are based on allegations American Honda impermissibly breached the peace in the course of the repossession.”

In addition, the court said it declined to dismiss one of the non-intentional tort claims filed by Engle. In her lawsuit, she alleged that she “suffered an ascertainable loss in the use and value of the vehicle ... and interference with her real property rights” when her vehicle was repossessed.

The district court also said Engle’s negligence claim would stand because she was able to allege that the company was negligent in its “supervision, hiring, training, and employment” of the other defendants on how to properly repossess a vehicle.

In electing to dismiss the punitive damages claim, the court said those claims are “awarded only for outrageous conduct, that is, for acts done with a bad motive or with a reckless indifference to the interests of others.”

The intentional torts claim was thrown out because Pennsylvania law does not hold companies liable for the conduct of independent contractors, according to the ruling.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Case number 2:16-cv-06195-MAK

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