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Figgers v. Carroll Fulmer Logistics Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 17, 2019




         This action is before the Court on Defendant Richard Freeman's motion to dismiss or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff Willie J. Figgers' response, and Freeman's reply (docs. 64, 69, 70). The Court addresses the motion as a motion for summary judgment.[1] Upon consideration, the motion is GRANTED and Figgers' claims against Freeman are dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Background

         Figgers alleges that he was struck by a tractor trailer owned by Carroll Fulmer Logistics Corp. and driven by Freemen on July 20, 2015. Figgers alleges that Freeman and Fulmer were negligent (Counts Two and Four). Under Alabama law, a cause of action for negligence must be filed within two years from the date of the accident or injury. Ala. Code § 6-2-38(1).[2] The initial complaint which named John Doe, as the driver of the tractor trailer, was filed July 20, 2017. The action was removed to this Court on October 27, 2017 (doc. 1). On December 28, 2017, Fulmer provided its initial disclosures to Figgers wherein Freeman was identified as the driver (doc. 11, doc. 30-1). The Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order set April 30, 2018 as the deadline for motions for leave to amend the pleadings or to join parties (doc. 12, ¶ 5).

         Figgers' motion for leave to amend to substitute Freeman for the John Doe driver was filed December 5, 2018 (doc. 27). The motion was granted and Figgers filed the amended complaint on March 4, 2019 (docs. 34, 43). Fulmer moved to strike the amended complaint and the motion was denied (docs. 47, 57). The amended complaint was served upon Freeman on March 8, 2019 (doc. 51). The summons was served on March 18, 2019 (doc. 59). In response, Freeman filed the instant motion to dismiss, or in the alternative motion for summary judgment.

         II. Statement of the law

         A. Summary judgment

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (Dec. 2010). Freeman, as the party seeking summary judgment bears “the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (the party seeking 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 demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986)). In deciding whether Freeman has met his initial burden, the Court must review the record and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to Figgers, as the non-moving party. See Whatley v. CNA Ins. Co., 189 F.3d 1310, 1313 (11th Cir. 1999).

         Once Freeman meets this responsibility, the burden shifts to Figgers, as the non-movant, to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact that would preclude summary judgment. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “In reviewing whether the [non-movant has met the] burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence and making credibility determination of the truth of the matter. Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 999 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986) ((bracketed text added). However, Freeman would be entitled to summary judgment if Figgers fails “to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he has] the burden of proof.'” In re Walker, 48 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2552) (bracketed text added). Overall, the Court must “resolve all issues of material fact in favor of the [Plaintiff], and then determine the legal question of whether [Defendant is] entitled to judgment as a matter of law under that version of the facts.” McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Durruthy v. Pastor, 351 F.3d 1080, 1084 (11th Cir. 2003)) (bracketed text added).

         The mere existence of any factual dispute will not automatically require denial of a motion for summary judgment; rather, only factual disputes that are material preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v. Secretary of Dept. of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004). “An issue of fact is material if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case. It is genuine if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d 798, 807 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         B. Relation back

         This action is before the Court on basis of diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). In an en banc decision, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure “15(c)(1) allows federal courts sitting in diversity to apply relation-back rules of state law where, as here, state law provides the statute of limitations for the action.” Saxton v. ACF Industries, Inc., 254 F.3d 959, 963 (11th Cir. 2001). Rule 15(c) states in relevant part as follows:

         (c) Relation Back of Amendments.

When an Amendment Relates Back. An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when: … the law that provides the applicable statute ...

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