Motor Vehicles • Substitution of Defendant

Phillips v. Lock, PICS Case No. 14-0351 (Pa. Super. Feb. 28, 2014) Platt, J. (29 pages).

Appellants, a husband and wife injured in a collision between their car and a bus, appealed from the judgment dismissing Krapf and Sons as a defendant and the trial court’s denial of post-trial relief after the jury verdict found that the bus driver was not negligent in the accident. Affirmed.

A car driven by Simone Phillips collided with a bus driven by Lock. The Phillipses sued Lock and Krapf and Sons. Krapf and Sons denied ownership of the bus and presented evidence that Krapf Coaches employed Lock, supplied the bus, and was a separate and distinct corporation from Krapf and Sons. The trial court dismissed Krapf and Sons as a defendant and denied the Phillipses’ motion to amend. At his deposition, Lock testified that Krapf coaches paid him and that Krapf Coaches is not located at the address where the Phillipses served Krapf and Sons. The deposition of the CFO of Krapf and Sons showed that the Krapf Coaches and Krapf and Sons were separate and distinct corporation with different corporate officers and engaged in different businesses with Krapf and Sons operating school buses and Krapf Coaches operating motor coaches and minibuses. Accordingly, the trial court correctly dismissed Krapf and Sons as a defendant and despite the Phillipses’ allegation, DiGregorio does not apply to the facts in this case.

The Phillipses sought to add Krapf Coaches as defendant on the morning of the trial, after the statute of limitations had expired although they had known for some time that Krapf Coaches employed Lock and that Krapf and Sons was a separate and distinct entity. Thus, adding Krapf Coaches as a defendant was not merely a substitution of a division of the same legal entity and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to substitute.

The Phillipses alleged that the trial court erred in refusing to give their proposed jury charge on negligence per se based on Lock’s alleged violation of §§33210 and 3361 of the Vehicle Code. The trial court did instruct the jury on the assured clear distance rule which more than adequately instructed the jury about the law in §§3110 and 3361. Additionally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion or commit error of law when it denied the Phillipses’ JNOV and motion for a new trial based on the weight of the evidence.

The trial court did not err in excluding, on the basis of hearsay, a police report that contained Simone Phillips’ statements at the scene. Appellants argue that the report was admissible pursuant to Rule 803(8) and under the official records exception to the hearsay rule but they did not raise these arguments in their post-trial motion and thus, the argument is waived. Additionally, §3375 of the Vehicle Code specifically provides that police reports are not admissible in any action for damages arising from a vehicle accident.

The trial court correctly held that a Social Security Disability Award information report was inadmissible where it described an onset of disability nine months after the accident and did not mention the vehicle accident in any way.

Additionally, the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it precluded the Phillipses from questioning representatives of Krapf and Sons about negligent training, hiring, rehiring or entrustment of the vehicle Lock was driving because such examination would have been irrelevant since Krapf and Sons were the incorrect party.