United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
reasons provided below, the Court grants in part and denies
in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement .
case arises from an automobile accident on Interstate 85 in
Macon County, Alabama, on May 19, 2011. Id. at 4.
Defendant Dan Healen and his wife were traveling northbound
when he noticed the cars ahead had stopped. He then tried to
stop his car, but was unable to. Healen shifted the car into
second gear to slow down and tried to bank the car off the
bridge to stop. But he bounced off the bridge and hit another
car, which bounced into Plaintiff's car.
filed this action in the Circuit Court of Macon County,
Alabama on January 31, 2013 against Healen and Alfa Insurance
Company. (See Doc. 1, Exhibit A, Complaint at p. 1-2.) Healen
removed the case on March 4, 2014, on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction. Plaintiff asserts the following claims under
Alabama law: (I) Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, (II)
Wanton Operation of a Motor Vehicle, (III) Negligent and/or
Wanton Entrustment, (IV) Claim for Uninsured and/or Uninsured
Motorist Benefits, (V) Respondent Superior, (VI) Negligent
Repair/Maintenance/Manufacture of Equipment, (VII) Wanton
Repair/Maintenance/Manufacture of Equipment, and (VIII)
Negligence Per Se-Violation of Safe Break Act. Defendant
Healen filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgement ,
which the Court now considers.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
provides: “[I]f the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Greenberg v.
BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263
(11th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The moving
party must “inform[…] the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identify[...] those portions of
‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Clark
v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir.
1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986)).
movant meets this burden, the non-moving party “may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the […]
pleadings, but ... must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Gonzalez v.
Lee County Hous. Auth., 161 F.3d 1290, 1294 (11th Cir.
1998). “If the non-moving party fails to ‘make a
sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with
respect to which she has the burden of proof, ' then the
court must enter summary judgment for the moving
party.” Id. (quoting Celotex, 477
U.S. at 323). However, “[i]n determining whether
genuine issues of material fact exist, we resolve all
ambiguities and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of
the non-moving party.” Id. (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).
response to Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment , Plaintiff consented to summary judgment on
counts VI, VII, and VIII. Plaintiff also conceded that
summary judgment is appropriate as to counts III and V, which
the Court will deem a withdrawal of those claims. Therefore,
the only claim to be addressed here is Count II, Wanton
Operation of a Motor Vehicle.
is “[c]onduct which is carried on with a reckless or
conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”
Ala. Code 1975, § 6-11-20(b)(3). “[T]o be
guilty of wanton conduct it must be shown that with reckless
indifference to the consequences [one] consciously and
intentionally did some wrongful act or omitted some known
duty which produced the injury.” Stallwoth v.
Illinois Central Gulf R.R., 690 F.2d 858, 863 (11th Cir.
1982) (citing English v. Jacobs, 263 Ala. 376, 82
So.2d 542, 544 (1955)). It is undisputed that Defendant made
a conscious decision to attempt to bank off the bridge to
stop his car instead of pursuing another course of action,
such as driving off the road. Likewise, it is undisputed that
Defendant's actions caused Plaintiff to suffer an injury.
The question is whether Defendant's decision qualifies as
acting with “reckless indifference to the
argues that the Essary presumption - that
“every person in possession of his normal faculties in
a situation known to be dangerous to himself, will give head
to the instincts of safety and self-preservation to exercise
ordinary care for his own personal protection” - bars a
finding of wantonness. Ex parte Essary, 992 So.2d 5,
12 (Ala.2007) (quoting Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v.
Wetherington, 16 So.2d 720, 723 (1944)). Defendant
contends that the decision to try and bank the car off the
bridge was not “inherently reckless” under the
also argues that he was not “inherently reckless”
because the sudden emergency doctrine applies. This doctrine
provides that “a person faced with sudden emergency
calling for quick action is not held to the same correctness
of judgment that would apply if he had had the time and
opportunity to consider fully and choose the best means of
escaping peril or preventing injury.” Dairyland
Ins. Co. v. Jackson, 566 So.2d 723, 727 (Ala. 1990)
(citing Jefferson County v. Sulzby, 468 So.2d 112
is some merit to Defendant's arguments, but, ultimately,
these questions belong to the jury. The question of
“wantonness should be submitted to a jury unless there
is a total lack of evidence from which the jury could
reasonably infer wantonness.” Monroe vs.
Brown, 307 F.Supp.2d 1268, 1271-72 (M.D. Ala. 2004)
(citing McDougle vs Shaddrix, 534 So.2d 228, 231
(Ala. 1988)). Likewise, whether the Essary
presumption or sudden emergency doctrine applies is a
question for the jury. See Atlantic, 16 ...