Victoria L. Willon, et al.
Duane D. Werb,
P. Laursen, Esquire Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz &
J. Rizzo, Jr., Esquire Rizzo & Darnall LLP
L. Medinilla Judge
the Court's decision on Defendant Duane D. Werb's
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Plaintiffs'
Claims for Willful and Wanton Conduct and Any Potential
Demand for Punitive Damages. After consideration of all
pleadings and the oral arguments on December 2, 2019, for the
reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is
and Procedural Background
December 2016, Plaintiff Sean A. Dotson and Plaintiff
Victoria Willon ("Plaintiffs") were involved in a
vehicular collision with Defendant Duane D. Werb
("Defendant"), who was operating a vehicle owned by
Ean Holdings, LLC ("Ean Holdings"). Plaintiffs
allege that this collision resulted in personal injuries and
damages to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant was
negligent and/or careless, reckless and wanton, and that
Defendant's conduct is imputed to Ean Holdings.
Plaintiffs request judgment against Defendants, jointly and
severally, for their general and special damages.
August 26, 2019, Defendant filed Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment as to Plaintiffs' Claims for Willful and Wanton
Conduct and Any Potential Demand for Punitive Damages. On
November 22, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Response. On
December 2, 2019, the Court heard oral argument.
Superior Court Civil Rule 56, the burden of proof on a Motion
for Summary Judgment falls on the moving party to demonstrate
that "there is no genuine issues as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law." If the moving party satisfies its initial
burden, the non-moving party must sufficiently establish the
"existence of one or more genuine issues of material
fact." Summary judgment will not be granted if
there is a material fact in dispute or if "it seems
desirable to inquire thoroughly into [the facts] in order to
clarify the application of the law to the
circumstances." In considering the motion, "[a]ll
facts and reasonable inferences must be considered in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party." However, the
Court shall not "indulge in speculation and conjecture;
a motion for summary judgment is decided on the record
presented and not on evidence potentially
Delaware Supreme Court has indicated that "[t]here is a
clear distinction between wantonness and negligence, as the
former term includes the elements of consciousness of
one's conduct, realization of the probability of injury
to another, and disregard of the
consequences." In other words, a "[w]illful or
wanton disregard of a plaintiffs rights-as opposed to
negligence-reflects a 'conscious indifference' or an
'I-don't-care attitude.'" However, if there
is not sufficient evidence to show the conduct rose to the
level of recklessness, the Court may remove from the trial
the potential prejudice that may occur in the plaintiffs'
efforts to support this allegation.
argue that because Defendant was involved in another car
accident two weeks prior to this collision, there are facts
regarding that accident that may create a viable claim for
punitive damages. The theory advanced is that following the
first accident, Defendant made a choice not to seek medical
treatment. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's conscious
decision to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle without
any assurance that he could safely do so is a factual dispute
for the jury to consider for their punitive damage claim.
This Court disagrees.
Court originally denied prior dispositive motions to allow
Plaintiffs to conduct discovery to determine whether the
level of impairment alleged supported their claims for both
compensatory and punitive damages. Having completed
discovery, the record presents no factual basis supporting a
conclusion that Defendant acted by "purpose or