United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES/DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by plaintiff
Mariana Alvarado Taylor regarding the liability of
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations
(“Bridgestone”), Crescent Crown Distributing
(“CCD”), Amerit Fleet Solutions
(“Amerit”), and the decedent Rahn Taylor, Sr. For
the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
22, 2015, Rahn Taylor, Sr. was killed in an automobile crash
on Interstate 12 between Lacombe and Slidell, Louisiana. At
the time of the accident, Mr. Taylor was driving a
tractor-trailer owned by his employer, CCD, which had
contracted with VehiCare for the inspection and maintenance
of its tractor-trailer fleet. The crash allegedly resulted
from a sudden tire failure on the right front steering axle.
Bridgestone manufactured the failing tire.
Taylor's wife brought the present lawsuit on behalf of
herself and her minor children claiming that VehiCare was
negligent in failing to properly inspect and maintain the
tractor-trailer driven by her husband at the time of his
death. She also asserted products liability claims against
Bridgestone, which have apparently been settled.
Mrs. Taylor alleges that VehiCare assumed a duty to monitor
CCD's fleet; that it conducted an initial fleet
inspection but failed to follow up on what it learned as a
result of this inspection; that it failed to fulfill its duty
to set up a 90-day preventive maintenance inspection schedule
and to conduct a preventive maintenance inspection of the
tractor-trailer driven by Mr. Taylor; and that it failed to
replace the tire that blew on the day of Mr. Taylor's
Taylor contends that these failures, among others, render
VehiCare solely liable for Mr. Taylor's death.
Accordingly, she seeks judgment as a matter of law that fault
cannot be apportioned to (1) Bridgestone, which manufactured
the failing tire; (2) Amerit, which oversaw maintenance of
CCD's fleet prior to VehiCare; (3) CCD, which employed
Mr. Taylor and ostensibly loaded his tractor-trailer and
dispatched it for delivery prior to his crash; and/or (4) Mr.
Taylor, who was operating the tractor-trailer at the time of
the accident. VehiCare opposes Mrs. Taylor's motion and
argues that, under comparative fault principles, liability
for Mr. Taylor's accident may be apportioned to each of
the aforementioned entities.
judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits, the court determines that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party seeking
summary judgment need not produce evidence negating the
existence of material fact, but need only point out the
absence of evidence supporting the other party's case.
Id.; Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190,
1195 (5th Cir. 1986).
the party seeking summary judgment carries its burden, the
nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing
that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a genuine issue is
not satisfied by creating “‘some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts, ' by ‘conclusory
allegations, ' by ‘unsubstantiated assertions,
' or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.”
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Instead, a genuine issue of
material fact exists when the “evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Although the substance or
content of the evidence submitted to support or dispute a
fact on summary judgment must be admissible . . ., the
material may be presented in a form that would not, in
itself, be admissible at trial.” Lee v. Offshore
Logistical and Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir.
2017) (quotation omitted).
party responding to the motion for summary judgment may not
rest upon the pleadings but must identify specific facts that
establish a genuine issue. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248. The nonmoving party's evidence, however,
“is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are
to be drawn in [the nonmoving party's] favor.”
Id. at 255; see also Hunt v. Cromartie, 526
U.S. 541, 552 (1999).
law provides that
[i]n any action for damages where a person suffers injury,
death, or loss, the degree or percentage of fault of all
persons causing or contributing to the injury, death, or loss
shall be determined, regardless of whether the person is a
party to the action or a nonparty, and regardless of the
person's insolvency, ability to pay, immunity by statute
. . . or that the other person's identity is not known or
reasonably ascertainable. If a person suffers injury, death,
or loss as the result partly of his own negligence and partly
as a result of the fault of another person or persons, the
amount of damages recoverable shall be reduced in proportion
to the degree or percentage of negligence attributable to the
person suffering the injury, death, or loss.
La. Civ. Code art. 2323(A). This statute applies “to
any claim for recovery of damages for injury, death, or loss
asserted under any law or legal doctrine or theory of
liability, regardless of the basis of liability.” La.
Civ. Code art. 2323(B). Furthermore, when a defendant urges
the liability of non-parties, it falls to him to establish
that liability. Haney v. Francewar, 588 So.2d 1172
(La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1991). In the summary judgment
context, this requires the defendant to “to point to
some record evidence demonstrating a contested issue of
material fact.” Augman v. Seacor Marine, LLC,
No. 07-cv-1508, 2007 WL 4326910, at *1 (E.D. La. Dec. 6,
2007) (Vance, J.).
Taylor contends that fault may not be apportioned to
Bridgestone, Amerit, CCD, or Mr. Taylor. The Court considers
her arguments with respect to each of these entities in turn.
parties do not dispute that Bridgestone manufactured the tire
that failed on the tractor-trailer operated by Mr. Taylor.
They do dispute, however, whether a manufacturing defect in
the tire contributed to Mr. Taylor's accident. VehiCare
notes that both its expert and Mrs. Taylor's expert have
identified manufacturing defects in the tire. VehiCare's
tire expert, Richard Sherman, observed that
[t]he pull towards the passenger side [Mr.] Taylor mentioned
. . . is consistent with a tire's behavior due to
conicity. Conicity occurs when the belt package and carcass
centerlines are not centered with each other during the
assembly of the tire. The behavior of the tire as it rolls
would be akin to a Styrofoam cup rolling on its side. The
misaligned belts would cause a tire to roll to the left or
right like a cone on a flat surface. In addition to a pull, a
tire with conicity will experience rapid tread wear in one
shoulder of the tire relative to the opposite side. Also,
tires with conicity will cause one sidewall to flex more and
generate rubber reversion and subsequent delamination of the
internal components. The  tire contained evidence of
component separations indicating a manufacturing
Mrs. Taylor's tire expert, Brian Darr, cited possible
manufacturing defects in the tire. He stated that
[t]he accident sequence was consistent with being initiated
by a tread and outer belt separation failure of the  right
front tire that occurred in the left lane near the center
line. The tread and outer belt separation resulted in the
tire violently deflating (blowout). This caused increased
drag on the right front position ...