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Tredick v. Ekugbere

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 29, 2018

HEATHER TREDICK
v.
BAZUNU D. EKUGBERE, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DEGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) filed by Bazunu D. Ekugbere and Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan (“Farm Bureau”) (collectively, “Defendants”) and on the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 19) filed by Plaintiff Heather Tredick. Both parties have filed oppositions. (Docs. 24, 23.) Neither party has filed a reply. Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, both cross-motions are denied.

         I. Factual Background

         The instant case arises out of an accident on January 24, 2016, that occurred on southbound I-59 in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana between a 1995 GMC Sierra owned and operated by Frederick McCurnin and a 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix operated by Ekugbere. (Docs. 18-2 & 24-1 ¶ 1.) Tredick was the passenger in McCurnin's vehicle at the time of the accident. (Docs. 18-2 & 24-1 ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiff testified that she was traveling on I-59 with her boyfriend when they got into an argument. (Doc. 24-2 at 3.) Plaintiff told the boyfriend she wanted to get out of the car, so he let her out. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff testified that there was no physical contact between the two of them and that he did not attack her. (Id. at 5.) She also had no pain or injuries at that time. (Id. at 6.)[1]

         After she got out of the car, she started walking, without shoes and with no particular plan. (Id. at 5.) About five minutes later, McCurnin pulled his vehicle over. (Doc. 24-2 at 6-7, 9.) Plaintiff testified that it was freezing outside and that she was crying because of the fight. (Id. at 9.) She asked McCurnin to take her to the next exit so she could “figure something out.” (Id.) They were stopped on the side of the road for “maybe five minutes, if that.” (Id. at 10.) They were on the right shoulder of the two-lane I-59. (Id. at 9, 11.)

         Plaintiff testified that, “when he pulled out -- like we were going, and he goes to merge out [into the right lane], and that's when he got hit” by Ekugbere's vehicle. (Id. at 9-11; Docs. 18-2 & 24-1 ¶ 8.) Plaintiff said McCurnin was over the line between the right lane and the shoulder, but more in the right lane. (Doc. 24-2 at 11.) McCurnin had a blinker on and was going about thirty miles per hour. (Id. at 11-12.)

         Plaintiff further stated that, as soon as the car stopped, she got out to check to see if anyone was hurt. (Doc. 18-3 at 16.) She saw the other car in the median and intended to help its occupants to see if they were all right. (Id.) She was about to step into the right lane from the shoulder when she saw two cars coming. (Doc. 24-2. at 13.) She stepped back on the shoulder, and, as a silver car went by “fast”, debris from the center of the highway hit her, causing significant injuries. (Id. at 13-14; Docs. 18-2 & 24-1 ¶ 12.) Plaintiff said the silver car and the black car following it were going fast, and there was no way for those cars to slow down because they were the first ones behind McCurnin. (Doc. 24-2 at 15.) Plaintiff said she got out of the car, started walking toward the other driver, got almost to the right lane, saw cars coming, and then took a step back. (Id. at 15.) Plaintiff testified that the whole thing “didn't take a long time” and was “[p]robably a minute.” (Id. at 15-16.)

         Plaintiff could not describe what the debris was, what color it was, or how big it was, but she said “there was a lot of debris on the road from the accident. . . . [I]t came from the accident. I mean there was a lot of debris on the road . . . from the accident. . . . it wasn't just one piece of metal. Like there was debris all over the road from the car accident.” (Id. at 17.) She continued: “I don't know. I mean it could have been from his vehicle or the other one, but there was a bunch of debris on the road.” (Id. at 17-18.) She agreed that “the debris that hit [her] was from debris that was in the left lane that the silver car hit.” (Id.) Plaintiff was facing the median when she was struck. (Id. at 18.)

         Plaintiff stated that the debris “knocked [her] out. I just think from the pain is what I think it did, because I don't -- it is just all of the sudden [sic] I opened my eyes and there was like -- there was a bunch of people around me that weren't, you know -- they were just pedestrians, you know.” (Doc. 24-2 at 19.) She said that she “couldn't move” and “had to stay still.” (Id.) She was told at the hospital that she was bleeding and that she was “split” from the back of her arm, around the elbow. (Id. at 19-20.) “[M]y entire elbow came through my arm, ” and she had “two little dots from the screws from the piece of metal” that “left an indentation” on her “abdomen” which she still had at the time of the deposition. (Id. at 20-21.) The EMT people loaded her onto the helicopter. (Id. at 21.) Plaintiff also claimed injuries to her ribs from the debris. (Doc. 18-3 at 7.) She said that all of them were broken on both sides and that the pain from this lasted a month. (Docs. 18-3 at 7; 19-3 at 15, 20.) Plaintiff had two surgeries at the hospital-the first for her arm, and then another two days later. (Doc. 19-2 at 19.) Plaintiff also had a lacerated liver, which the doctors said would heal on its own. (Id.)

         McCurnin provided a conflicting account of how Plaintiff sustained her injuries. McCurnin testified that, when he picked Plaintiff up, she told him she was beaten up by two or three guys in a vehicle. (Doc. 24-3 at 9-10; 18-4 at 15.) According to McCurnin, these men had thrown her out of the car. (Doc. 24-3 at 10.) McCurnin said Plaintiff gave no other specifics about those events. (Id.)

         When McCurnin picked Plaintiff up, “she was bent over, stumbling forward, with both arms covering the stomach area, chest area.” (Doc. 18-4 at 11; see id at 17.) McCurnin remembered her saying she had pain in her arm and ribs. (Id. at 19.) McCurnin's intention was to “pick her up” and “drop her off someplace where she could call for assistance.” (Id. at 15.) He later said he was going to bring her to the hospital. (Id. at 23.)

         McCurnin said he did not recall ever seeing any kind of debris or object strike Plaintiff. (Id. at 10.) McCurnin stated that, after the accident, she got out of the car, started walking north, and then laid in the grass. (Id. at 14.) He said he saw no bleeding coming from her body, and she was conscious and alert. (Doc. 18-4 at 22.) McCurnin said that he did not know, based on anything she said to him, why a medical transport helicopter was necessary at the accident scene. (Id. at 13.)

         Plaintiff denied McCurnin's account of what happened. (Doc. 24-2 at 7.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the mover bears his burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact, “its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986) (internal citations omitted). The non-mover's burden is not satisfied 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 and internal quotations omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.' ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. Further:

In resolving the motion, the court may not undertake to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes; so long as the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party could arrive ...

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