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PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMM v. NATIONWIDE TRUCKING SERV.

January 22, 2004.

PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, Plaintiff, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Intervenor Plaintiff
v.
NATIONWIDE TRUCKING SERVICES, INC., Defendants Third-Party Plaintiffs v. ATLANTIC CONTAINHR LINE, SKNKING WORK. GMBH, AND ROBERT HEILMANN-SPEDITION, GMBH., Third-Party Defendants AND TRYP-BALTICA FORSIKRING a/s/o CENTRAL FINISHING SYSTEMS, Plaintiff v. NATIONWIDE TRUCKING SERVICES, INC.; STICK CHAVEZ OUIOCSON. and ROBERT HEILMANN-SPEDITION, GMBH, Defendants Third Party Plaintiffs v. ATLANTIC CONTAINER LINE-; and SKNKING WERK. GMBH., Third Party Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KIM GIBSON, District Judge Page 2

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ("Commission"), Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, (Document No. 148). Plaintiff seeks summary judgment with regard to Defendants', Nationwide Trucking Services, Inc. ("Nationwide") and Stick Chavez Quiocson ("Quiocson"), claims, and Plaintiff further seeks summary judgment with regard to Plaintiff's, Tryg-Baltica Forsikring ("Tryg-Baltica"), claims.*fn1 Specifically, the Commission alleges that summary judgment should be granted for the following two reasons: the Commission is a government agency and is entitled to sovereign immunity; and Nationwide, Quiocson, and Tryg-Baltica failed to bring their claims against the Commission within the statute of limitations. In consideration of the Commission's Motion for Summary Judgment, Nationwide and Quiocson's Brief in Opposition to the Commission's Motion for Summary Judgment, and Tryg-Baltica's Brief in Opposition to the Commission's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court denies the Commission's Motion for Summary Judgment for the following reasons.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  On or about December 15, 1998, Quiocson was operating a tractor-trailer on behalf of Nationwide on the Pennsylvania Turnpike en route from Baltimore, Maryland, to New Kensington, Pennsylvania, (Document Nos. 149, 155, 156).*fn2 Quiocson was hauling a water Page 3 extraction press, which is used in commercial laundry operations ("cargo")*fn3, to Central Finishing Systems in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. (Document No. 156). Tryg-Baltica was the insurer of Central Finishing Systems, the owner and consignee of the cargo. Id.

  Quiocson operated the tractor-trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike which has a statutory maximum height of 13 feet 6 inches for vehicles traveling on that roadway. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4922. (Document No. 149). He testified that he did not measure the height of the cargo when he picked up the trailer at the Nationwide terminal (Document No. 149).*fn4 The Commission alleges that Quiocson had a duty to measure the height of his load when he picked up the trailer at the Nationwide terminal. (Document No. 149). Nevertheless, Quiocson managed to enter onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Breezewood Interchange without detection by the height measuring device, known as a photogating tower, (Document No, 155). Quiocson stated in his deposition taken on August 13, 2002 that the Pennsylvania Turnpike has sensors which would prevent a tractor-trailer from entering onto the Turnpike if the load violated the statutory height requirement. (Document No. 156). Yet, on or about December 15, 1998 when he entered the turnpike, no such alarm was triggered. Id.

  As Quiocson traveled westbound on the Turnpike, the cargo on his tractor-trailer struck an overhead bridge near milepost 110.12, by the Somerset Interchange. (Document Nos. 149, 155). All parties to this civil action agree that the "subject bridge herein was higher than 13 feet Page 4 6 inches." (Document No. 155). Subsequently, Tryg-Baltica hired a marine surveyor to determine the extent of damages to the cargo. (Document No. 156).

  All parties agree that damages were incurred to the bridge owned by the Commission as a result of the collision. (Document No. 155). The amount of the damage to the bridge has been stipulated to as well. Id. However, the legal cause has been in dispute since the Commission initiated this civil action. Id.

  Essentially, the Commission alleges that it was Nationwide and Quiocson's negligence in failing to measure the tractor-trailer and in violating Pennsylvania's statutory height requirement that was the legal cause of the collision. (Document No. 149). Conversely, Nationwide and Quiocson argue that the non-functioning photogating tower owned by the Commission is the legal cause of the collision. (Document No. 155). Plaintiff, Tryg-Baltica, in its consolidated cause of action also alleges that the failure of the photogating tower to detect the over-sized load is one of the legal causes of the accident. (Document No. 156).

  Subsequent to the countersuit of Nationwide, Quiocson, and Tryg-Baltica against the Commission, the Commission filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Document No. 148).

  DISCUSSION

  Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, "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."

  The mere existence of some factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an Page 5 otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. A dispute over those facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law, i.e., the material facts, however, will preclude, the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Similarly, summary judgment is improper so long as the dispute over the material facts is genuine. Id. In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 248-49. In summary, the inquiry under a Rule 56 motion is whether the evidence of record presents a genuine dispute over material facts so as to require submission of the matter to a jury for resolution of that factual dispute, or whether the evidence is so one-sided that the movant must prevail as a matter of law.

  To demonstrate entitlement to summary judgment, the moving party is not required to refute the essential elements of the cause of action. The moving party needs only to point out the absence or insufficiency of the evidence offered in support of those essential elements. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must identify affirmative evidence of record that supports each essential element of his cause of action.

  A non-moving party may not successfully oppose a summary judgment motion by resting upon mere allegations or denials contained in the pleadings, or by simply reiterating those allegation or denials in an affidavit. Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S.871, 888(1990). Rather, the non-moving party must offer specific evidence found in the record that contradicts the evidence presented by the movant and indicates that there remain relevant factual disputes Page 6 that must be resolved at trial. See id. If ...


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