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Casmier v. The Cincinnati Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 5, 2017

SANDY CASMIER
v.
THE CINCINNATI INSURANCE CO., ET AL

         SECTION: A (4)

          ORDER

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 12) filed by Plaintiff Sandy Casmier. Defendants Neal Bowles (“Bowles”), Cumberland Products, Inc. (Cumberland), and the Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”) oppose the Motion. (Rec. Doc. 15). The Motion, set for submission on May 3, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.[1]

         I. Background

         This matter arsis out of an automobile collision involving Plaintiff, Defendant Bowles, and Bob Pellegrin, who is not a party in this lawsuit. On August 6, 2015, a collision occurred between a vehicle operated by Plaintiff and a truck operated by Bob Pellegrin. (Rec. Doc. 15). Plaintiff claims that Bowles failed to yield the right of way and came into Plaintiff's lane, “requiring her to take evasive actions to avoid a crash resulting in a collision with” Pellegrin's vehicle. (Rec. Doc. 1-2). At the time of the collision, Bowles was allegedly acting in the course and scope of his employment with Defendant Cumberland, who Plaintiff claims is vicariously liable for Bowles' negligence. (Rec. Doc. 1-2). Plaintiff filed her lawsuit against Defendants in the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson, which Defendants removed to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Rec. Doc. 1). Plaintiff then filed the instant Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Rec. Doc. 12).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiff filed her Motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeking a declaration from the Court that 1) Defendant Bowles is 100% liable and solely at fault for the damages arising out of the motor vehicle collision between Bowles, Plaintiff, and Bob Pellegrin, 2) that Defendant Cumberland is vicariously liable for the negligence of Bowles, and 3) that Defendant Cincinnati provided automobile liability coverage to Bowles and Cumberland. Defendants maintain that summary judgment is not appropriate because genuine issues of material fact remain.

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Once the moving party has initially shown “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with “specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993)). Additionally, if the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, then the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263-64 (5th Cir. 1991) (quoting Golden Rule Ins. Co. v. Lease, 755 F.Supp. 948, 951 (D.Colo. 1991)).

         a. Defendant Bowles' Fault

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration from the Court that Bowles was 100% liable and solely at fault for any damages Plaintiff sustained as a result of the collision that occurred on August 6, 2015. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion asserting that Bowles is not 100% at fault because Pellegrin and Plaintiff are at fault.

         In support of her Motion, Plaintiff points out to the Court that “Bowles was cited for failure to yield under LSA-R.S. 32.123.” (Rec. Doc. 12-1). She also points out to the Court that Bowles' insurer paid for the property damage sustained by Plaintiff and Pellegrin. (Rec. Doc. 12-1). Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that she was driving at the speed limit, and that her evasive action was reasonable and appropriate because she was presented with an unexpected emergency situation. In support of their opposition, Defendants note that Bowles' vehicle never came into contact with another vehicle, and cite to the Police Report from the date of the accident in which the officer reported that Pellegrin was traveling ten miles above the speed limit when his vehicle struck Plaintiff's vehicle. (Rec. Doc. 15). Defendants also note that there are conflicting facts as to whether Plaintiff was traveling in the far left lane or the center lane before Bowles' vehicle began to merge. (Rec. Doc. 15). Finally, Defendants maintain that more than one party may be at fault for the damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident.

         The Court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of liability and comparative fault. Taking the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, in the light most favorable to Defendants as the non-moving parties, the issue remains as to how much fault should be apportioned to Plaintiff and to Pellegrin. Considering the fact that Defendant Bowles' vehicle never came into contact with another vehicle and that Pellegrin was traveling above the speed limit, whether Plaintiff and Pellegrin were at least partially at fault remains unclear. In ordinary tort actions, “the determination and apportionment of fault is a factual issue.” Coleman ...


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