Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers Inc. Case Brief

Summary of Zielinski v. Philadelphia Piers Inc
139 U S 408 E D Pa [1956]

Pleading- Answer; Responding to the Complaint

Relevant Facts: Pl, Frank Zielinski, was injured while working on Pier 96 in Philadelphia unloading freight, when a forklift operated by Sandy Johnson collided with the forklift he was a passenger on. Pl’s legs and Johnson’s head sustained injury. Carload Contractors Inc. had apparently purchased PPI one year prior to the accident. On the date of the accident Df, PPI, owned the forklift in the custody of Johnson but had leased it to CCI.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the Df’s Answer to the Pl’s allegations is sufficient under FRCP 8 (b)?

Court’s Holding: NO

Procedure: Fed. D. Ct Eastern D of PA

Law or Rule(s): A Party shall state in short and plain terms his Dfs to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments upon which the adverse party relies. Denials shall fairly meet the substance of the averments denied.

Court Rationale: Df does not deny the averments in Paragraph 5 that the forklift came into contact w/ Pl except through answers to interrogatories. Compliance w/ the Rule required the Df to file a more specific answer than a general denial. A specific denial of parts of this paragraph and specific admissions of other parts would have warned the Pl that he had sued the wrong Df. The answer to paragraph 5 does not make clear to Pl the defenses he must be prepared to meet. Under circumstances where an improper and ineffective answer has been filed alleging an agency in the complaint requires a statement to the jury that agency is admitted where an attempt to amend the answer is made after the expiration of the period of limitation.

Df should be estopped from denying agency b/c otherwise its inaccurate statements and statements on the record which it knew were inaccurate, will have deprived the Pl of his right to action. At least one appellate ct has stated that the doctrine of equitable estoppel will be applied to prevent a party from taking advantage of the S/L where the Pl has been misled by conduct of such party.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Df failed to adequately answer the averments in the complaint in order for Pl; Dfs inaccurately answered interrogatory #2, and misled the Pl concerning the proper party of the lawsuit.

Defendant’s Argument: Df did not owe an obligation or duty to advise Pl or Pl’s atty that their complaint failed to name the proper party.



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