United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
on the Issue of Liability (Doc. 14) by Plaintiff
Gabrielle Guillory. Defendants United Specialty Insurance
Company, NorthStar Carriers & Logistics Company, LLC, and
Leroy Lopez filed a response. (Doc. 15) For the reasons
stated herein, the Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment on the Issue of Liability (Doc. 14) is
action arises out of an automobile accident that occurred on
September 9, 2016 on Interstate 10 ("1-10") in
Baton Rouge, LA. Plaintiff alleges that she was a passenger
in a 2015 Nissan Pathfinder operated by her mother Carolyn
Guillory ("Guillory") that was traveling in the
eastbound center lane. (Doc. 14-1 at p. 2) Plaintiff further
alleges that Defendant Leroy Lopez ("Lopez") was
driving a 2011 Volvo 670 tractor and trailer behind her
mother's vehicle. (Id.) As Guillory's
vehicle slowed and came to a stop due to traffic, Lopez
attempted to merge from the center lane to the left lane and
collided with Guillory's rear driver side bumper.
(Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that at the time of
the incident Lopez was employed by and acting within the
scope of his employment for Defendant NorthStar Carriers
& Logistics Company, LLC ("NorthStar").
(Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant
United Specialty Insurance Company ("United
Specialty") provided liability insurance coverage
Lopez's vehicle. (Id. at 3)
to Rule 56, "[t]he [C]ourt 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). In determining
whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court
views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant
and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's
favor. Coleman v. Houston Independent School Dist,
113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997).
proper motion for summary judgment is made, the non-movant
must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). At this stage, the Court does not
evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or
resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v.
Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991),
cert, denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence
in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all
inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at
a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary
judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc.,
939 F.2d at 1263.
other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied by
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, or by
conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or a mere
scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,
37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-movant "fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). In other words,
summary judgment will be appropriate only "if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with affidavits if any, show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241
(5th Cir. 1972).
seeks summary judgment on the issue of Defendants'
liability for the accident. (Doc. 14-1 at p. 1) Louisiana law
establishes a presumption that "a following motorist who
strikes a preceding motorist from the rear" is liable
for the accident. Byrd v. Norman, No.
17-471-JWD-EWD, 2017 WL 5986470, at * 6 (M.D. La. Nov. 14,
2017) (citing Harbin v. Ward, 2013 CA 1620, 147
So.3d 213, 218 (La.App. 1 Cir. May 29, 2014)). A motorist may
rebut this presumption by establishing (1) that he kept his
vehicle under control, (2) that he closely observed the
forward vehicle, and (3) that he followed at a safe distance
under the circumstances. Dorsey v. Hertz
Corporation, No. 16-3680, 2016 WL 6575190, at *4 (E.D.
La. Nov. 7, 2016). A motorist may also avoid liability by
showing that the driver of the lead vehicle negligently
created a hazard which the following vehicle could not
reasonably avoid. Id. It appears to be undisputed
that Lopez's vehicle collided with the rear of
Guillory's vehicle. (Doc. 14-7 at p. 6, Doc. 14-2 at p.
2) The Court must therefore presume Lopez was responsible for
the Court concludes that there remains a dispute of material
fact as to whether Lopez may avoid liability. First, it
remains in dispute whether Lopez kept his vehicle under
control, whether he closely observed Guillory's vehicle,
and whether he followed at a safe distance under the
circumstances. Lopez testified that while driving in the
center lane, he turned to glance into his side rearview
mirror and his blind spot in order to shift into the left
lane. (Doc. 15-1 at p. 3) When Lopez turned his gaze back, he
saw Guillory's vehicle. (Id.) As such, a
reasonable jury could find that Lopez was paying due
attention to the road and operating his vehicle safely.
Moreover, it remains in dispute whether Guillory negligently
created a hazard which caused the accident. Lopez testified
in his deposition that he did not recall Plaintiffs vehicle
in front of him before he started moving into the left lane.
(Doc. 15-1 at p. 4) This is in direct contrast to Plaintiffs
testimony that Guillory was traveling in the center lane and
stopped for traffic, after which Lopez collided with her
vehicle. (Doc. 14-4 at p. 2) If Guillory suddenly and without
warning moved into the center lane, a reasonable juror could
find that Guillory negligently created a hazard. Given
Lopez's account of the accident, a reasonable jury could
arrive at a verdict in Defendant's favor. Accordingly,
Plaintiff is not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of
IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment on the Issue of ...