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Funches v. Progressive Tractor and Implement Company, L.L.C.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 28, 2018

HARVEY LEE FUNCHES, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
PROGRESSIVE TRACTOR AND IMPLEMENT COMPANY, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

          Before KING, ELROD, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM

         Harvey Lee Funches lost his left arm when his vehicle collided with a piece of farm equipment being towed by a pickup truck as the two passed one another on a Mississippi road. The only live dispute left in this case is Funches's suit against Progressive Tractor and Implement Company, L.L.C., the company that leased the equipment to the driver of the pickup truck. In the suit, Funches alleged, inter alia, that the company was negligent in failing to warn the pickup truck's driver of the dangers associated with towing the equipment with a pickup truck instead of a tractor. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the company on the failure-to-warn claim (as well as Funches's other claims), finding that Funches failed to create a genuine factual dispute regarding the essential element of proximate cause. Funches appeals the district court's order. We AFFIRM.

         I.

         A.

         On the afternoon of March 30, 2015, Harvey Lee Funches was traveling in his truck down a two-lane road in Warren County, Mississippi. Approaching in the opposite lane was Chase Noland, a farmer, driving a pickup truck with a farm disc[1] in tow. When the two passed one another, the farm disc collided with Funches's truck. Funches, who was traveling with his left arm either on or outside his driver-side window, had his left arm severed by the disc's blades.

         Two days prior to the accident, Noland rented the disc from Progressive Tractor and Implement Company, L.L.C. ("PTI"), a Louisiana equipment dealer and the appellee in this case. At the time of the accident, Noland was en route from his farm in Start, Louisiana, to another one of his farms in Utica, Mississippi.

         The disc Noland rented had a warning decal on the tongue near its hitch. The decal contains an illustration juxtaposing a pickup truck towing the disc and an agricultural tractor towing the disc. A large red X is over the truck. The decal also states:

         WARNING

         TOWING HAZARD

• Properly prepare machines for transport / roading.
• Transport with Ag Tractor only - MAX. road speed 20 mph [32 kph].
• Total weight of towed unit, not to exceed 1.5 times weight of tractor.
• Use caution when on turns, inclines, or hazardous road conditions to ...

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