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Moten v. Maverick Transportation LLC

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

June 29, 2015

JOSHUA MOTEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MAVERICK TRANSPORTATION LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KARON OWEN BOWDRE, Chief District Judge.

This case arises out of Defendant Maverick Transportation LLC's termination of Plaintiff Joshua Moten. Mr. Moten is a member of the Marine Corps Reserve and alleges that Maverick unlawfully terminated him because of his military obligations. He brings suit against Maverick under the Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 ("USERRA"). See 38 U.S.C. ยง 4301 et seq. This matter is now before the court on Maverick's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Strike Mr. Moten's Declaration. (Docs. 14 & 22, respectively). For the reasons discussed below, this court will DENY both of Maverick's motions.

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary judgment allows a trial court to decide cases when no genuine issues of material fact are present and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. When a district court reviews a motion for summary judgment, it must determine two things: (1) whether any genuine issues of material fact exist; and if not, (2) whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

In reviewing the evidence submitted, the court must "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden, " to determine whether the nonmoving party presented sufficient evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986); see Cottle v. Storer Commc'n, Inc., 849 F.2d 570, 575 (11th Cir. 1988). "If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). This is because "the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, if the evidence is "merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

After both parties have addressed the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant the motion if no genuine issues of material fact exist and if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

II. Background

On October, 31, 2013, Mr. Moten applied for employment as a truck driver with Maverick. Shortly thereafter, Maverick hired Mr. Moten and assigned him to begin training in Maverick's flatbed trailer division. During training, Mr. Moten received instruction on how to safely operate a semitrailer and properly cover a load with a tarp to prevent damage from the elements. After successfully completing the training, Mr. Moten received approval to begin operating his own tractor-trailer. Upon graduation, Maverick assigned Mr. Moten a truck and instructed him to report to Fleet Manager Lou Shoults in the Maverick terminal in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

As instructed, Mr. Moten reported to Mr. Shoults and began operating a truck in January of 2014. Shortly after beginning to haul his own loads, however, Mr. Moten began to have performance issues. First, Mr. Moten failed to call in to work on January 13, 2014, to receive his next work assignment. Mr. Shoults was unable to get in contact with Mr. Moten until the afternoon of January 14, 2014. Although Mr. Moten had failed to call in, Mr. Shoults took no disciplinary action against him and simply gave Mr. Moten his next assignment.

Mr. Moten's struggles as a driver continued though, and, on January 17, 2014, Mr. Moten had his first accident. Mr. Moten had been driving in Houston, Texas when he turned too tightly while cornering, striking a concrete barrier with his trailer. The accident damaged the trailer's tire and tarp boxes, requiring Maverick to send a vendor to the accident scene to repair the trailer before it could be driven. After being stranded for a day in Houston waiting for repairs to be completed, Mr. Moten delivered his load and drove back to Maverick's terminal in North Little Rock. Upon Mr. Moten's return, Mr. Shoults inspected the trailer and discovered that Mr. Moten had failed to properly secure and tarp his load. Mr. Shoults brought the issue to Mr. Moten's attention and instructed him on proper methods for covering his trailer. Mr. Shoults also required Mr. Moten to complete additional training on driving. In that same conversation, Mr. Moten asked if he would be terminated for the accident. Mr. Shoults responded that most new drivers are involved in an accident and that Mr. Moten was not at risk of being terminated. After completing the additional training, Mr. Moten resumed driving for Maverick.

On Monday, February 3, 2014, Mr. Moten received approval from Mr. Shoults to take time off to attend Marine Corps Reserve training on Thursday, February 6, 2014. Mr. Moten told Mr. Shoults that his training would last till the weekend and that he would be available to return to work on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:00 A.M. On February 10, however, Mr. Moten did not call in at 6:00 A.M. to receive his next driving assignment as planned, and Mr. Shoults was unable to reach him until 11:00 A.M. When Mr. Shoults did reach Mr. Moten, he told him to pickup a load in Rainsville, Alabama. Although Rainsville is roughly seventy miles from his home, Mr. Moten did not arrive there until six hours later. When he did arrived, Mr. Moten again asked Mr. Shoults if he was "anywhere near close to being fired." Mr. Shoults responded that Mr. Moten was not close to being fire and that he would let Mr. Moten know if he needed to worry about being terminated. Mr. Shoults documented Mr. Moten's failure to check in on time but again took no disciplinary action.

On February 24, 2014, Mr. Moten received approval to take time off for additional Marine Corps Reserve training beginning on March 5, 2014. On March 3, 2014, two days before Mr. Moten's training began, Mr. Moten was involved in his second accident. While positioning his truck to be unloaded in Fort Worth, Texas, Mr. Moten hung his trailer up on a set of railroad tracks, damaging the trailer in the process. The damage to his trailer forced Mr. Moten to wait overnight for a mechanic to repair his trailer, causing Mr. Moten to miss driving his next load to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Because he missed the load to Fort Smith, Maverick assigned Mr. Moten a different route and instructed him to drive a load from Grand Prairie, Texas to a Home Depot store in Little Rock, Arkansas.

After picking up his load in Grand Prairie, however, Mr. Moten's bad luck continued. While driving to Little Rock, Mr. Moten's truck's warning system alerted him that a tire was leaking air. Mr. Moten pulled the truck over at a truck stop and called Maverick's after-hours hotline for advice on how to proceed. Maverick's phone operator instructed Mr. Moten to wait and see if the leak continued. Mr. Moten waited overnight at the truck stop, and, upon waking, discovered that the tire had gone completely flat. At 10:03 A.M. on March 5, 2014, Mr. Moten entered a message into Maverick's communication system alerting Maverick that his tire was flat and that his truck could not be driven until it was repaired. After learning that Mr. Moten was delayed, Mr. Shoults sent him a message, telling him to bring his load straight back to the Maverick terminal rather than dropping the load off at the Home Depot in Little Rock. Once the trailer's tire was repaired, Mr. Moten drove to the Maverick terminal. Although the Parties agree that Mr. Moten arrived in North Little Rock on March 5, 2015, the Parties dispute the events that followed.

According to Mr. Shoults, someone sent him an email message when Mr. Moten arrived at the terminal, informing him that Mr. Moten had failed to properly tarp his load. Based on the message, Mr. Shoults asked Mr. Moten to come to his office and told him to remain there while he inspected Mr. Moten's truck. As he had been informed, Mr. Shoults found the load to be improperly tarped. Mr. Shoults then inspected the cab of the truck and discovered greasy chains and binding equipment strewn around the inside of the cab instead of stored on the "headache rack"-a rack on the back of the truck used to store securing materials. In addition to the ...


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