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McCutchen v. Valley Home, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

April 17, 2015

BRYAN C McCUTCHEN, Plaintiff;
v.
VALLEY HOME, INC., et al., Defendants

Page 1236

For Bryan C McCutchen, an individual, Plaintiff: Keith Jackson, Robert R Riley, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Jeremiah M Mosley, RILEY & JACKSON PC, Birmingham, AL.

For Valley Home Inc, a business, Defendant: Fredrick Lane Finch, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brian C Richardson, Joseph L Cowan, II, HAND ARENDALL LLC, HAND ARENDALL, LLC, Birmingham, AL; Douglas W Fink, HAND ARENDALL LLC, Mobile, AL.

For Paul Herman Johnson, an individual, Defendant: Fredrick Lane Finch, Jr, Tracy T Miller, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Brian C Richardson, Joseph L Cowan, II, HAND ARENDALL, LLC, Birmingham, AL; Douglas W Fink, HAND ARENDALL LLC, Mobile, AL.

Page 1237

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

L. SCOTT COOGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is Defendants Valley Home, Inc. and Paul H. Johnson's motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 33.) The Court has also received Plaintiff's motion for ore tenus hearing. (Doc. 34.) For the reasons stated below, the motion for partial summary judgment is due to be granted in part and denied in part, and the motion for ore tenus hearing is due to be denied.

I. Background[1]

On August 6, 2013, Defendant Paul Johnson (" Johnson" ) was driving a loaded tractor-trailer rig weighing approximately 74,000 pounds as part of a multi-day haul on behalf of Defendant Valley Home, Inc. (" Valley Home" ) southbound on U.S. Highway 11 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. After discovering that he had mistakenly taken the wrong exit off of Interstate 20/59, Johnson pulled off the highway to prepare to make a left turn in order to turn around and travel north back to the interstate. Before making the turn, Johnson looked out of his window and saw that Plaintiff Brian McCutchen (" McCutchen" ) was approaching in a utility truck. Johnson judged that he had enough time to complete the turn before McCutchen arrived and proceeded to pull out in an attempt to make the left turn. McCutchen applied the brakes and moved from the left to the right lane in order to give Johnson more room, but collided with Johnson's trailer before it was able to complete the turn into the northbound lanes.

At the time of the accident, Johnson was sixty-five years old. Johnson had previously retired from truck driving at age sixty-two, but had come out of retirement to work for Valley Home in order to earn extra money. The trip during which the accident occurred was the first time Johnson had driven a tractor-trailer since he came out of retirement, and Johnson retired from driving tractor-trailers again

Page 1238

the morning after the collision because he believed he was too old to drive trucks. Valley Home required Johnson to take a drug test following the accident, which Johnson passed.

Before Johnson was hired by Valley Home, the company verified that he had a valid driver's license and pulled his three year MVR, which listed one violation, for failure to obey a rule or regulation. Valley Home also required Johnson to pass a road test, and submit to a pre-employment drug screening, which Johnson passed. After Johnson returned from retirement, the only training Valley Home provided him was performed by the owner of the company, Michael Boyd (" Boyd" ), based on materials from the company he had owned prior to forming Valley Home in 2009. Boyd testified that he reviewed Johnson's logbook for the haul at issue, but did not notice that Johnson was stopping more frequently than was required, odd behavior for a truck driver who typically has an incentive to drive as mach as he is allowed in order to complete trips faster and earn more money.

On August 30, 2013, McCutchen and his wife Doloros McCutchen filed their complaint against Johnson and Valley Home with this Court. (Doc. 1.) On December 22, 2014, Defendants filed their motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 33.) On January 9, 2015, the McCutchens filed their response and a separate motion for ore tenus hearing. (Doc. 34.) On February 6, 2015, Doloros McCutchen filed a pro tanto motion to dismiss her claim for loss of consortium, and to dismiss her as a party plaintiff (Doc. 39), which this Court granted (Doc. 41.), leaving McCutchen as the only remaining plaintiff.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate " 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). A fact is " material" if it " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). There is a " genuine dispute" as to a material fact " if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The trial judge should not weigh the evidence ...


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