Authored by Ollie Lammers
According to LexBlog, states like Pennsylvania are reviewing if plaintiffs should receive additional sums to their verdict if their cases were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Pa.R.C.P.Rule 238, when a plaintiff is seeking monetary damages and their case is delayed, the monetary damages can be increased due to unnecessary delay to their settlement. The unnecessary delay monetary damages will be part of the overall money awarded to the plaintiffs.
A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge included a monetary delay in the Yoder v. McCarthy Construction. The defense requested the court not to include monetary delay. The defense stated they should not have to make the additional monetary payment due to courts being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The judge denied the defense’s request because Rule 238 states that the plaintiff will receive additional monetary damages due to delayed litigation even if no one is at fault.
The judge also denied the defense’s request because the defense did not take the courts being closed for the opportunity to settle. The judge stated that the pandemic “did not prevent defense counsel from picking up the telephone, scheduling a Zoom hearing, or sending a text message to opposing counsel indicating the desire to make an offer to settle this case.”
The judge also mentioned the temporarily closed courts would encourage both parties to settle, but the defense chose not to take that opportunity. The judge said the courts being delayed was not an excuse for the defense not to pay monetary delays to the plaintiff.
Many other judges have had similar rulings in their courtroom to include monetary delay damages because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the wording of Rule 238.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court did state that the defense would not pay monetary delay damages if the defense made a written offer settlement and the plaintiff rejected the offer. The Superior Court also said that if the plaintiff does not recover more than 125% of the original offer, the plaintiff would be considered to delay the trial and could not seek monetary delay damages.