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Crow v. Toney

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 24, 2018

ROSHONA CROW
v.
ROOSEVELT L. TONEY, ET AL.

          HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE JUDGE

         Before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants Jones Transportation, Inc. ("Jones"), Francis Hancock ("Hancock"), and Insurance Company of Pennsylvania (collectively, the "Jones Defendants") [Record Document 61] and First Mercury Insurance Company ("First Mercury") [Record Document 66]. For the reasons below, the motions are GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' claims against First Mercury and the Jones Defendants are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         This case arises out a seven-car collision on Interstate 20 in August 2016. [Record Document 63 at 2]. Unsurprisingly for such an accident, the facts are complex, and so this Court will recite only those relevant to the instant motion.[1]

         Plaintiff Roshona Crow ("Crow") was driving a Crown Victoria (Vehicle 7). [Record Documents 63 at 2 and 70 at 1]. Hancock was operating a tractor-trailer for his employer, Jones (Vehicle 6). [Record Document 63 at 2]. During the accident, a Toyota Highlander driven by Jocephus Melton (Vehicle 3) and a Mercedes GLA25O driven by Sara Cruz ("Cruz") (Vehicle 4) collided with Hancock's tractor-trailer. [Record Documents 68-6, 70 at 1, and 73-1 at 67]. The Toyota struck the Mercedes. [Record Documents 70 at 1 and 73 at 3]. The Mercedes struck Crow's Crown Victoria. [Record Documents 61-4 at 5 and 70 at 1]. During the accident, Crow's car was also rear-ended by a Ford Fl 50 driven by Charlie Grice (Vehicle 5). [Record Document 61-4 at 4].

         At the beginning of the accident all the vehicles except Hancock's were in the left lane. After being struck from behind, Melton's Toyota collided with Cruz's Mercedes. [Record Documents 70 at 1 and 73 at 3]. At that point, the Toyota spun into the right lane, where it collided with Hancock's truck; the Toyota never made direct contact with Crow's Crown Victoria. [Record Document 73-1 at 79, 145]. Meanwhile, Cruz's Mercedes collided with the Crown Victoria in the left lane before spinning into the right lane where it too collided with Hancock's trailer before coming to rest on the right shoulder. [Record Documents 68-6 at 1 and 73-1 at 143]. Crow's Crown Victoria ended the accident in the left lane. [Record Document 73-1 at 141].

         At his deposition, Crow could not testify to personal knowledge of which vehicles struck his Crown Victoria. [Record Document 63 at 2-3]. Hancock as well as the state trooper who investigated the accident testified that Hancock's tractor-trailer never struck Crow's Crown Victoria. [Id. at 3]. On the basis of this lack of direct contact, the Jones Defendants moved for summary judgment. [Record Document 61 at 2]. First Mercury, Jones's excess insurer, then adopted the Jones Defendants' motion. [Record Document 66 at 1-2]. Crow filed a memorandum in opposition, arguing that there is a dispute of fact on the issue of causation because Hancock's trailer struck Cruz's Mercedes and the Mercedes struck Crow's Crown Victoria. [Record Document 68]. First Mercury filed a late reply brief, arguing for the first time based on different evidence that Hancock was not the cause of Crow's damage because Cruz's Mercedes collided with Hancock's truck only after Cruz's Mercedes had collided with Crow's Crown Victoria. [Record Document 73]. The Jones Defendants adopted the arguments in this brief. [Record Document 74]. In order to provide Crow with a fair opportunity to meet this new evidence, the Court granted Crow the right to file a sur-reply to rebut Defendants' new evidence. [Record Document 75]. Crow has filed a sur-reply, asserting that he has no additional evidence or argument to present to the Court. [Record Document 76].

         II. Standard on Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) directs a court to "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."[2] 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. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (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 Id. at 322-23.

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmovant must demonstrate that there is, in fact, a genuine issue for trial by going "beyond the pleadings" and "designating] specific facts" for support. Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Or. 1994) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). "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. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). 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) (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). 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 or tenuous" that it could not support a judgment in the nonmovant's favor. Armstrong v. City of Dall, 997 F.2d 62, 67 (5th Cir. 1993).

         Additionally, Local Rule 56.1 requires the movant to file a statement of material facts as to which it "contends there is no genuine issue to be tried." The opposing party must then set forth a "short and concise statement of the material facts as to which there exists a genuine issue to be tried." W.D. La. R. 56.2. All material facts set forth in the movant's statement "will be deemed admitted, for purposes of the motion, unless controverted as required by this rule." Id.

         III. Analysis

         A. Applic ...


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