Denials - General or specific denials Case: Parties: Zielinski v Philadelphia Piers, Inc.

Plaintiff - Zielinski Defendant - PPI

Facts: Zielinski is on a forklift and he gets hit by Johnson (supposedly employed by PPI; but actually employed by CCI but he doesn’t know it). Forklift says PPI on it. Zielinski sues PPI. Plaintiff doesn’t know, but PPI is no longer in the business, and had leased (but still owned by PPI) the forklift and the area to CCI (employees also transferred to CCI). There's still a relationship between the companies, but technically CCI would have been liable under tort law for the actions of its employees. So, Zielinski had sued the wrong company, but didn’t know it. When PPI receives the allegations, they deny them in general, but not specific parts - in particular, they do not specifically deny that they own and operate the forklift. If they had, the plaintiff would have realized his mistake, but now they are barred from filing suit against CCI because of the statute of limitations. Defendant had their insurance company (who also insures CCI) make an investigation of the events promptly. Court decides that there's no indication that actions of either PPI or CCI were made in bad faith, and there is no proof of inaccurate statements being made with intent to deceive. Holding: defendant Court had forklift, Court lets the wrong def go to trial, and instructs the jury that admitted they employed Johnson, the employee that acted negligently. decided that there is a deemed admission that PPI is the operator of the which means they will be liable if it can be proved they were negligent.

Rule 8b (USC): A party shall state in short and plain terms the party's defenses to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments upon which the adverse party relies. If a party is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of an averment, the party shall so state and this has the effect of a denial. Denials shall fairly meet the substance of the averments denied. When a pleader intends in good faith to deny only a part or a qualification of an averment, the pleader shall specify so much of it as is true and material and shall deny only the remainder. Reasoning: Compliance with Rule 8b required that defendant file a more specific answer than a general denial. A specific denial of parts of allegation and specific admission of other parts would have warned plaintiff that he had sued the wrong defendant. Reasons Judge gives for result: ○ It was an ineffective denial under the Rules. A proper denial would have broken down the component parts, which would have been a signal to the plaintiff that the plaintiff sued the wrong party. The plaintiff could have then amended his pleadings. PPI needed to clearly state that yes, they owned it, but they did not operate it. ○ The judge finds that there was no bad faith. This is often consideration when judges decide what to do on pleadings. What really underlies this case is the party in interest here: the insurance company, which insures both PPI and CCI. As a practical matter, neither defendant will pay the judgment, the insurance company will pay. So, it doesn’t really matter who gets sued. But you cant ignore the Fed Rules of Civ Pro to get that result, so the judge says it’s an effective denial. At least one appellate court has stated that the doctrine of equitable estoppel

will be applied to prevent a party from taking advantage of the statute of limitations where the plaintiff has been misled by conduct of such party. Notes Complaint said forklift was owned, operated and controlled by PPI. PPI leased the forklift to CCI, so they denied the complaint in general. P 387 Note 5 a. If you know something is true, but other side cannot prove. What do you do? You can't ethically deny something that you know is true. By being honest, you can lose your client. Duty of lawyer is to make the best argument on the facts as they exist. b. A alleges something that B does not doubt to be true, but does not know for sure. - no obligation to admit that which you don’t know. You can answer that you have no knowledge - this has the effect of denial. Deny knowledge or information. c. A alleges something that B does not know for sure happened, but a friend of B, X, says they saw what A alleges. There is no obligation to supplement the pleadings with this additional information (as long as first answer was made in good faith). This is a good as a tactical matter, and also helps for a just, quick and speedy decision. You can make an amendment to your answer - this will show that you are honest, but you don’t have to. If the complaint is written in an organized way, they will get a better answer. But, the burden is on the responding party.