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Malish v. Hurst

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 24, 2019

MICHAEL MALISH and DEBRA MALISH, Plaintiffs,
v.
PATRICIA DAWN HURST, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On October 6, 2017, Michael Malish (“Plaintiff M. Malish”) and Debra Malish (“Plaintiff D. Malish”)[1] filed a complaint (Doc. 1) against Patricia Dawn Hurst (“Defendant Hurst”), GEICO General Insurance Company, and GEICO Casualty Company (collectively “GEICO”), arising from an automobile accident that occurred on June 26, 2017, in Prattville, Alabama. See generally (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Plaintiff M. Malish, who was driving his vehicle at the time of the collision, sustained physical injuries from the accident; past and future medical expenses; pain and suffering; lost wages; property damage; and mental anguish. Id. at 5. The complaint also alleges that Plaintiff D. Malish, who was not in the vehicle at the time of the collision, “suffer[ed] a loss of her husband's society, services[, ] and comfort.” Id. at 6. The complaint sets forth claims of negligence and wantonness against Defendant Hurst based upon her involvement in the accident. See generally (Doc. 1).

         On September 7, 2018, Defendant Hurst filed a motion for partial summary judgment to dismiss Plaintiffs' wantonness claim against her and a brief in support thereof. (Doc. 29). Plaintiffs filed a timely opposition to Defendant Hurst's motion. (Doc. 31). The matter is fully briefed and is ripe for recommendation to the United States District Judge.[2]

         II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Standard of Review

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a reviewing court shall grant a motion for “summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Only disputes about material facts will preclude the granting of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine' if the record as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. An issue is ‘material' if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law.” Redwing Carriers, Inc. v. Saraland Apartments, 94 F.3d 1489, 1496 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         Under Rule 56, summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of her case on which she bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-23.

         Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by [her] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324. In doing so, and to avoid summary judgment, the non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The parties must support their assertions “that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed” by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations[], admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B).

         If the nonmovant “fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact” as required by Rule 56(c), then the court may “consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion” and “grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) & (3).

         In determining whether a genuine issue for trial exists, the court must view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). Likewise, the reviewing court must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. 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). Furthermore, “[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); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (“If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.”) (internal citations omitted).

         A reviewing court is restrained during summary judgment proceedings from making the sort of determinations ordinarily reserved for the finder of fact at a trial. See Strickland, 692 F.3d at 1154 (citations and quotations omitted) (“Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge, whether he is ruling on a motion for summary judgment or for a directed verdict.”). After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         B. Statement of Facts[3]

         On June 25, 2017, around 10:00 a.m., Defendant Hurst began traveling from Michigan to Florida in a 2002 Cadillac Escalade.[4] (Doc. 29-1) at 8, 18; (Doc. 30-1) at 2. That evening, she stopped at a motel approximately an hour-and-a-half north of Prattville, Alabama, to spend the night. (Doc. 29-1) at 18. The following morning, she continued her trip to Florida. Id. at 35. It was a sunny day, and no weather conditions impeded Defendant Hurst's ability to drive. Id. at 36. After seeing a sign for gasoline and McDonald's, Defendant Hurst exited the interstate and onto an off-ramp round ...


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