United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
February 26, 2016, Plaintiffs Ashley and Unique Congress
initiated this action against Defendants James Morefield,
Jr., Ronald R. Jones d/b/a R&M Jones Trucking, Ronald R.
Jones individually, and R&K Stoner Logistics, Inc. in the
Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, alleging state
law claims for (1) negligence, (2) wanton and reckless
conduct, (3) negligent, reckless and/or wanton violations of
the rules of the road, (4) and negligent
entrustment. (Doc. 1-1 at 37-44). On June 1, 2016,
Defendants removed the action to this court. (Doc. 1). On
April 11, 2017, Defendants filed a collective motion for
partial summary judgment to the extent the Plaintiffs assert
wantonness, negligent hiring, and negligent entrustment
claims,  (doc. 18), and evidentiary material in
support of that motion, (doc. 19). Plaintiffs responded on
May 2, 2017, stating they have no objection to the three
grounds on which the Defendants have moved for summary
judgment, but maintaining there is a genuine issue of
material fact with respect to the negligence and negligent
violation of the rules of the road claims. (Doc. 21). The
motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. (Docs. 18 &
21). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is
Standard of Review
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is proper “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.” Rule 56
“mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 447 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The moving party bears the initial burden of proving the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at
323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is
required to “go beyond the pleadings” to
establish there is a “genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324. (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
Court must construe the evidence and all reasonable
inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co.,
398 U.S. 144, 157, (1970); see also Anderson, 477
U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the
non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be
resolved in Plaintiffs favor when sufficient competent
evidence supports Plaintiffs version of the disputed facts.
See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276-78 (11th
Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in
the non-moving party's favor when that party's
version of the events is supported by insufficient evidence).
However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual
allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary
judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d
1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald
Mtn. Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 836 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th
Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere ‘scintilla'
of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will
not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury
could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v.
Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
Summary Judgment Facts
December 16, 2014, Plaintiff Ashley Congress was driving with
her daughter, Unique, on Princeton Parkway in Jefferson
County, Alabama. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 10). At the same time,
Defendant James Morefield was driving a tractor-trailer
(owned by Defendant R&M Jones Trucking and leased to
Defendant R&K Stoner Logistics, Inc.) in the same
direction on Princeton Parkway. (Doc. 19-3 at 13 (47:11-23,
48:4-6); doc. 19-4 at 5 (13:3-9); doc. 19-6 at 9 (8:5-9)).
Morefield was stopped at a red light at the intersection of
Princeton Parkway and Third Avenue West when the Congresses
approached the intersection and stopped at the same light;
Morefield was stopped in the left lane, while the Congresses
were in the right lane. (Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 10; doc. 19-3 at
13-14 (47:11-23, 48:4-6, 49:6-8)). When the light turned
green, Morefield attempted to make a right turn, but the turn
was wide and his vehicle's trailer contacted the
Congresses' front bumper, pulling it off. (Doc. 19-1 at
¶ 10; doc. 19-3 at 18 (66:12-23, 67:-23, 68:1-14); doc.
19-4 at 14-16 (51:2-23, 56:11-25, 57:1-7)). Because the
contact itself was minor, Morefield was unaware that the
collision had happened. (Doc. 19-3 at 14-15 (51:9-10,
54:17-18); doc. 19-4 at 13 (51:2-21)). However, Ashley
Congress followed Morefield for about a block and got his
attention, after which Morefield pulled into a parking lot
and Ashley Congress called the police. (Doc. 19-3 at 14
(51:2-5); doc. 19-4 at 13 (51:9-23)).
holds a commercial driver license (“CDL”), which
has never been suspended or revoked. (Doc. 19-4 at 6
(19:1-25, 20:13-14)). He has never received a traffic
citation while operating a commercial vehicle and, other than
accident that is the subject of this action, has never been
involved in a motor vehicle accident. (Doc. 19-4 at 7
(21:12-14, 22:16-19)). Morefield has received only one
citation as a driver: for driving without a seatbelt. (Doc.
19-4 at 7 (21:20-25, 22:1-15)). R&K Stoner Logistics
performed a check into Morefield's driving qualifications
and background and determined he had a “clean
record.” (Doc. 19-6 at 9-10 (8:13-24, 9:8-14)).
stated above, Defendants' motion for partial summary
judgment is unopposed. However, “summary judgment, even
when unopposed, can only be entered when
‘appropriate.'” United States v. One
Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami,
Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). Therefore,
the court must consider the motion on its merits and review
the evidence in support of the motion to determine whether
the Defendants have met their burden under Rule 56.
have moved for summary judgment on two claims explicitly made
in the complaint: wantonness (which is the entirety of Count
II and a portion of Count III) and negligent entrustment
(Count IV). They have also moved for summary judgment on a
theory they claim is implicit in the complaint: negligent
hiring and/or supervision. They do not move for summary
judgment on the remainder of the Congresses' claims:
Count I (negligence) or Count III (to the extent it alleges
negligent violations of the rules of the road).
prevail on a claim for negligent entrustment, a plaintiff
must show “(1) an entrustment of the vehicle; (2) to an
incompetent; (3) with knowledge that he is incompetent; (4)
negligent or wanton use of the entrusted vehicle which
proximately caused the plaintiff's damages; and (5)
damages.” Penland v. Allsup, 527 So.2d 715,
715 (Ala. 1988). “[T]he incompetence of a driver is
measured by the driver's demonstrated ability (or
inability) to properly drive a vehicle.” Halford v.
Alamo Rent-A-Car, LLC, 921 So.2d 409, 413-14 (Ala.
is no evidence that Morefield was unable to properly drive a
vehicle or that, if he was, any of the other defendants were
aware of his incompetence. Considering Morefield's
driving record, the Alabama Supreme Court has held a driving
record that includes two speeding tickets and a deferred
adjudication of a DUI charge to be insufficient as a matter
of law to establish incompetence. Pryor v. Brown &
Root USA, Inc., 674 So.2d 45, 52 (Ala. 1995).
Morefield's record is far less problematic. The
undisputed facts are that Morefield has held a CDL which has
never been suspended or revoked and has received only a
single traffic citation as a driver, for driving without a
seatbelt. Morefield has never received a citation while
operating a commercial vehicle. There is simply no evidence
from which a jury could conclude Morefield was incompetent.
Additionally, there is no dispute that Morefield's
background check was clean, revealing nothing to indicate
Morefield was incompetent; thus, there is ...