WHEELING – A Tyler County couple will be able to amend their car wreck lawsuit, but a federal judge has also ruled to keep it in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp, of the Northern District of West Virginia, ruled April 30 to allow Thomas and Mary Jo Keller to add a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but at the same time he denied the Kellers’ motion to remand the case back to Tyler Circuit Court.

The two filed a lawsuit against Ryan E. Temple of Belmont County, Ohio, over an Aug. 17 car accident.

Because Stamp is allowing the Kellers to amend their lawsuit, they will also be able to add Apex Pipeline Services, which is Temple’s employer, as a defendant.

“In support of this addition, the plaintiffs assert that based on the circumstances of the accident, Apex is vicariously liable for the actions of its employee,” Stamp’s ruling says.

The motion to amend the complaint was unopposed by the defendants.

The opinion says Temple was driving on Route 18 in Middlebourne as a special condition of his employment with Apex, which supplied fuel for his car for the trip, when the wreck occurred.

The Kellers were travelling in separate cars, though Mary Jo was in the car directly behind her husband’s. She witnessed the entire accident and its aftermath, she says.

Thomas suffered injuries to his head, neck, back, shoulder, leg and arm, the complaint says. Mary Jo suffered emotional distress and loss of consortium, according to the original complaint.

The amended complaint adds the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress because it was recently discovered how close she allegedly was to the accident.

Temple had the lawsuit removed to federal court, arguing diversity jurisdiction – he is from Ohio – and that the amount in controversy exceeds a threshold of $75,000.

Temple said the Kellers’ attorneys have indicated that Thomas may have medical bills totaling approximately $100,000.

Temple agreed to remand the case if the Kellers’ stipulated they are not seeking more than $75,000. They did not reply to that request.

A letter from the Kellers’ attorney indicating he estimated Thomas’ medical bills to be around $100,000 was sufficient evidence to keep the lawsuit in federal court, Stamp wrote.

The Kellers are represented by Zachary Zatezalo of Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling.

Temple is represented by Marcy J. Grishkevic and April J. Wheeler of the Law Offices of Khan & Wheeler in Wheeling. State Farm Insurance, an interested party, is represented by Afton L. Aman and G. Thomas Smith of Smith McMunn & Glover in Clarksburg.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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