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Estate of Brown v. Cox

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

February 19, 2019

THE ESTATE OF ROBERT LEE BROWN, Norman Laister, Administrator ad Litem, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERWOOD BRITT COX, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case arises from a traffic accident in Chilton County, Alabama, involving a tractor-trailer and a pick-up truck. The driver of the pick-up, Robert Lee Brown (“Brown”), filed a complaint against the driver of the tractor-trailer, Sherwood Britt Cox (“Cox”), and his employer, Daybreak Express, LLC (“Daybreak”), invoking this court's diversity jurisdiction. Complaint (Doc. 1) at ¶¶ 4-8. Mr. Brown died on October 9, 2017, see (Doc. 16), and the complaint was amended to add a wrongful death count and substitute his estate as plaintiff. Amd. Compl. (Doc. 24) at ¶¶ 1, 40-43. Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts a variety of negligence and wantonness claims against Defendants Daybreak and Cox, as well as a wrongful death count based upon these same claims. Id. at pp. 3-12.

         Defendants have not moved for summary judgment on Count One, the underlying claim alleging that Daybreak's driver Cox was negligent/wanton in his operation of the tractor-trailer while acting as an agent of Daybreak, or Count Five, a separate count alleging agency. Mot. For Partial S.J. (Doc. 48) at 1-2; Pl's Resp. (Doc. # 50) at 11. Rather, Defendants' motion is limited to Plaintiff's claims for negligent and wanton maintenance, inspection, repair, supervision, hiring and training (Counts Two, Three, Four, Six, Seven, and Eight) as well as the wrongful death count based upon these claims (Count Nine). Mot. For Partial S.J. (Doc. 48). Plaintiff stipulates that summary judgment is appropriate on his claims for negligent/wanton maintenance, inspection, repair, supervision, and training (Counts Two, Three, Four, Six, and Eight), and only opposes summary judgment on his negligent/wanton hiring claim (Count Seven). Pl's Resp. (Doc. # 50) at 11.

         Comparison of the elements of Counts One and Seven shows that Count Seven is redundant. In addition, Plaintiff lacks sufficient probative evidence to satisfy his burden on the remaining elements of a negligent/wanton hiring claim under Alabama law.

         ACCORDINGLY, for the reasons stated below, undersigned RECOMMENDS that Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 50) be GRANTED and that Counts Two, Three, Four, Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine as it relates to negligent/wanton maintenance, inspection, repair, supervision, hiring, and training be DISMISSED.[1]

         II. Plaintiff's Stipulation

         Defendants Cox and Daybreak move for partial summary judgment as to the following claims:

1. Count Two - Negligent/Wanton Maintenance
2. Count Three - Negligent/Wanton Inspection
3. Count Four - Negligent/Wanton Repair
4. Count Six - Negligent/Wanton Supervision
5. Count Seven - Negligent/Wanton Hiring
6. Count Eight - Negligent/Wanton Training
7. Count Nine - “Claim for wrongful death based on wanton conduct and there claims stated in Sections A-H related to negligent/wanton maintenance, inspection, repair, supervision, hiring, training, and failure to properly follow applicable regulations.” ..

         Defendants do not move for summary judgment on Count One-Negligent/Wanton operation of the 18-wheel truck by Defendnt Cox while acting in his capacity as agent and/or employee of Defendant Daybreak, or Count Five-Defendant Cox was acting as an agent and employee of Defendant Daybreak within the line and scope of his authority. Defs' Mot. Partial. S.J. (Doc. 48) at 1-2; Amd. Compl. (Doc. 28) at 3-4, 6.

         Plaintiff, after reviewing Defendants' arguments and evidence related to their motion for partial summary judgment, “stipulates that summary judgment is appropriate as to the claims of Negligent/Wanton Maintenance, Negligent/Wanton Inspection, Negligent/Wanton Repair, Negligent/Wanton Supervision, Negligent/Wanton Training, as well as with respect to the Wrongful Death aspects of those five claims.” (Doc. 50) at 11. However, “Plaintiff opposes Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment only as to the claims of Negligent/Wanton Hiring and the claim of Wrongful Death based on the theory of Negligent/Wanton Hiring[.]” Id. Per plaintiff's stipulation, the undersigned recommends that Counts Two, Three, Four, Six, Eight, and Nine as it relates to negligent/wanton maintenance, inspection, repair, supervision, hiring, and training be dismissed. The remaining discussion is limited to Count Seven, Plaintiff's negligent/wanton hiring claim.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary Judgment

         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). The Supreme Court explains that ‘[o]ne of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . 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. “ Id. at 322.

         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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). 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).

         IV. THE SUMMARY ...


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