Under circumstances where an improper and ineffective answer has been filed, the Pennsylvania courts have consistently held that an allegation of 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 statutory period of limitations.
Plaintiff was injured when the forklift he was operating collided with another forklift. He filed a action against the company for personal injury. He alleged in a paragraph of his complaint that he was injured due to a collision with a forklift operated by an agent who was acting in the course of his employment with the company. The company’s answer contained a general denial of this paragraph, and in fact, an agent of a third party was operating the forklift at the time.
Was the forklift operator considered an agent of the company?
The trial court ruled that the company had admitted that the forklift operator was its own agent. Since it did not contest plaintiff's injury or the fact of the collision, it should have made a specific denial only as to the agency allegation, and the general denial was thus ineffective. Also, defendant was not permitted to amend its answer to include a more specific denial, since the limitations period as to the third party had already passed. The Court agreed to instruct jury that defendant admitted operator of forklift which injured plaintiff was defendant's agent.