United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE JUDGE
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment [Record
Document 20] filed by the Defendants, Cody Smiddy, TruCore
Energy, LLC, and State National Insurance Company, which
prays for this Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims with
prejudice and at her cost. Plaintiff has opposed the motion.
Record Document 23. Upon consideration of the briefs filed by
the parties and for the reasons stated below, Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgement is DENIED.
Sherika Williams (“Williams”), filed this
personal injury suit on August 22, 2016, in the Louisiana
First Judicial District Court in Caddo Parish. In her
petition, Williams alleged that she suffered injuries arising
out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on March 12,
2016, when a vehicle in which she was a passenger was struck
by a truck driven by Defendant, Cody Smiddy
(“Smiddy”). Record Document 1-2. At the time,
Smiddy was acting in the course and scope of his employment
with Defendant, TruCore Energy, LLC (“TruCore”).
Id.; Record Document 14-3, p. 1. Williams brought
her suit against Smiddy, TruCore, and TruCore's insurer,
State National Insurance Company. The suit was removed to
federal court on November 16, 2016.
April 13, 2016, after the accident occurred but before filing
this personal injury suit, Williams filed for bankruptcy in
the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Nevada.
The claim which gives rise to the present suit was not
included as a financial asset on the “Schedule A/B:
Property” form filed in the bankruptcy
action. On July 19, 2016, the bankruptcy court
confirmed Williams' Chapter 7 bankruptcy and an order of
discharge was issued. Record Document 20-2. It appears that,
in response to the filing of this personal injury suit, the
bankruptcy case was re-opened in January 2017 for the purpose
of administering assets. Record Document 23-2, 23-3. On March
16, 2017, the bankruptcy court issued an order allowing the
law firm of Dudley DeBosier to represent the bankruptcy
estate in the present suit. Record Document 20-3. The order
was docketed in this case as Plaintiff's proof of
authority to pursue this personal injury claim on behalf of
the bankruptcy estate. Record Document 18. Defendants then
filed this motion for summary judgment, arguing that
Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs that a court
“shall grant summary judgment if 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.” Summary judgment is appropriate when the
pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions,
depositions, and affidavits on file indicate that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548
(1986). When the burden at trial will rest on the non-moving
party, the moving party need not produce evidence to negate
the elements of the non-moving party's case; rather, it
need only point out the absence of supporting evidence.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-323.
movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is
no genuine dispute of material fact with the motion for
summary judgment, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there
is, in fact, a genuine issue for dispute at trial by going
“beyond the pleadings” and designating specific
facts for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37
F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). “This burden is not
satisfied with ‘some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, '” by conclusory or unsubstantiated
allegations, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Id.
(quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, “[t]he
evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1985) (internal citations omitted); Reid v. State Farm
Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986)
(the court must “review the facts drawing all
inferences most favorable to the party opposing the
motion”). While not weighing the evidence or evaluating
the credibility of witnesses, courts should grant summary
judgment where the critical evidence in support of the
nonmovant is so weak and tenuous that it could not support a
judgment in the nonmovant's favor. Little, 37
F.3d at 1075.
Local Rule 56.1 requires the moving party to file a statement
of material facts as to which it contends there is no genuine
issue to be tried. Pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, the party
opposing the motion for summary judgment must set forth a
“short and concise statement of the material facts as
to which there exists a genuine issue to be tried.” All
material facts set forth in the statement required to be
served by the moving party “will be deemed admitted,
for purposes of the motion, unless controverted as required
by this rule.” Local Rule 56.2.
their motion, Defendants argue that judicial estoppel should
operate to bar Plaintiff's claim due to her failure to
list the claim on her bankruptcy petition and filings.
Judicial estoppel is a common law doctrine that prevents a
litigant from assuming inconsistent positions for
self-interest. In re Superior Crewboats, Inc., 374
F.3d 330, 334 (5th Cir. 2004). “It is ‘an
equitable doctrine invoked by a court at its discretion'
to ‘protect the integrity of the judicial
process.'” Reed v. City of Arlington, 650
F.3d 571, 574 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting New Hampshire v.
Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 749-50 (2001)). The doctrine
“must be applied in such a way as to deter dishonest
debtors, whose failure to fully and honestly disclose all
their assets undermines the integrity of the bankruptcy
system, while protecting the rights of creditors to an
equitable distribution of the assets of the debtor's
estate.” Reed, 650 F.3d at 574. In assessing
whether judicial estoppel should apply, this Court must find
that three elements are satisfied: “(1) the party
against whom judicial estoppel is sought has asserted a legal
position which is plainly inconsistent with a prior position;
(2) a court accepted the prior position; and (3) the party
did not act inadvertently.” Id. Despite these
elements, the Fifth Circuit has noted that "judicial
estoppel is not governed by ‘inflexible prerequisites
or an exhaustive formula for determining [its] applicability,
' and numerous considerations ‘may inform the
doctrine's application in specific factual
contexts.'" Love v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 677
F.3d 258, 261 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting New Hampshire v.
Maine, 532 U.S. at 751).
Application of the Estoppel Elements
Plaintiff has asserted a legal position that is inconsistent
with her earlier position. In her bankruptcy proceedings, she
did not disclose her pending claim even though the accident
giving rise to the claim had already occurred. She had a duty
to disclose the claim, but did not, and in failing to do so,
she essentially made a representation that no claim existed.
See In re Superior Crewboats, Inc., 374 F.3d at ...