United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
JIMMIE BRADY, ET AL.
GLOBAL HAWK INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is plaintiffs' motion for partial summary
judgment.For the following reasons, the Court grants
case arises out of a motor vehicle collision on the I-10
highway in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. On December 4, 2015,
Defendant Lukas Maelissa was driving a tractor-trailer owned
by Defendant DAT Trucklines, Inc., when the front of
Maelissa's vehicle struck the rear of a vehicle driven by
Plaintiff Jimmie Brady. Plaintiff Acharmbi Berry was a guest
passenger in Brady's car at the time of the
accident. Defendant Global Hawk Insurance Company
provides insurance coverage to DAT Trucklines and
7, 2016, plaintiffs filed a petition for damages in Louisiana
state court. Brady and Berry allege that they each
suffered personal injuries because of the traffic
accident. Defendants removed the matter to this
Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship under 28
U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiffs now move for partial summary
judgment on the issues of liability, comparative fault,
vicarious liability, and insurance coverage.
judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact
exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the
record but refrain[s] from making credibility determinations
or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land
Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395,
398-99 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn
in favor of the nonmoving party, but “unsupported
allegations or affidavits setting forth ‘ultimate or
conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient
to either support or defeat a motion for summary
judgment.” Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754
F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985); see also Little, 37
F.3d at 1075. “No genuine dispute of fact exists if the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the non-moving party.” EEOC v.
Simbaki, Ltd., 767 F.3d 475, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).
dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial, 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, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (internal
citation omitted). The nonmoving party can then defeat the
motion by either countering with evidence sufficient to
demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material
fact, or “showing that the moving party's evidence
is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable
fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving
party.” Id. at 1265.
dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will
bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by pointing out that the evidence in the
record is insufficient with respect to an essential element
of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477
U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party,
who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out
specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See
Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the
pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a
genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id.;
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (“Rule 56
mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.”) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).
Request to Strike Exhibits
ask the Court to strike as inadmissible certain exhibits
attached to plaintiffs' motion. As an initial matter, the
Court notes that “[a]t the summary judgment stage,
materials cited to support or dispute a fact need only be
capable of being ‘presented in a form that
would be admissible in evidence.'” LSR
Consulting, LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 835 F.3d 530,
534 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2)).
first ask the Court to strike evidence of a settlement
agreement between Global Hawk and Brady regarding the
property damage to Brady's vehicle arising out of the
December 4, 2015 accident. Federal Rule of Evidence 408
provides that evidence of a settlement is inadmissible
“either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of
a disputed claim.” Fed.R.Evid. 408(a). Plaintiffs'
references to the property damage settlement appear designed
to establish the validity of their claim, and plaintiffs have
not indicated that this evidence could be admissible for any
permissible purpose. Cf. Belton v. Fibreboard Corp.,
724 F.2d 500, 505 (5th Cir. 1984) (holding that evidence of a
settlement may be admissible for purposes other than to prove
liability or the validity or amount of a claim). Evidence of
a purported property damage settlement is therefore not
capable of being presented in admissible form, and the Court
will not consider it on summary judgment. Accordingly, the
Court strikes plaintiffs' Exhibit 6.
further request that the Court strike plaintiffs'
photographic and video evidence. Defendants argue that
these exhibits lack foundation and are inadmissible under
Federal Rule of Evidence 901.Plaintiffs represent that the
photograph and video were captured by a police
officer's body camera during the officer's
investigation of the traffic accident. As noted
above, evidence need not be fully authenticated and
admissible to constitute competent summary judgment evidence
so long as it is capable of being presented in admissible
form at trial. See Lee v. Offshore Logistical &
Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017); LSR
Consulting, LLC, 835 F.3d at 533-34. But the Court finds
it unnecessary to consider the video and still photograph
because plaintiffs have presented sufficient alternative
evidence to warrant partial summary judgment.
argue that the uncontested facts establish that Maelissa is
solely at fault for the damages they sustained as a result of
the motor vehicle collision. Brady testified in his
deposition that he was driving in traffic on the right lane
of the highway preparing to exit on Claiborne Avenue when his
vehicle was suddenly hit by a truck driving behind
him. Berry similarly testified that
Brady's vehicle was traveling in the right lane in stop
and go traffic when the vehicle was struck from
behind. Defendants do not offer any deposition
testimony to rebut plaintiffs' accounts of the accident.
defendants admit that the front of Maelissa's truck
collided with the rear of Brady's vehicle. In Louisiana,
drivers of motor vehicles have a duty “not [to] follow
another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent,
having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the
traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” La.
R.S. 32:81(A). The Louisiana Supreme Court has explained that
“a following motorist in a rear-end collision is
presumed to have breached the standard of conduct prescribed
in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. 32:81 and hence is presumed
negligent.” Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120, 1123
(La. 1987). To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear
driver “must establish that he kept his vehicle under
control, closely observed the forward vehicle and followed at
a safe distance under the circumstances.” Eubanks
v. Brasseal, 310 So.2d 550, 553 (La. 1975); see also
Domingo v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 54 So.3d 74,
80-81 (La.App. 5 Cir. 2010). A following driver can avoid
liability by demonstrating “that the unpredictable
driving of the preceding motorists created a sudden emergency
that the following motorists could not reasonably have
anticipated.” See Eubanks, 310 So.2d at 555.
have not presented the Court with Maelissa's description
of the accident. Nor do they offer any evidence that Maelissa
was driving safely under the circumstances. Additionally, the
police traffic crash report includes a violation by Maelissa
for failure to yield and concludes that he was at fault for
the accident. The police report indicates no
violations by Brady. Given this report and plaintiffs'
unrebutted accounts of the accident, the Court finds that
plaintiffs have offered sufficient evidence to “entitle
[them] to a directed ...