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Esteras v. TRW

August 25, 2006

LUIS AND AIDA ESTERAS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TRW, INC., FAHRWERKSYSTEME GMBH & CO., KG, A GERMAN CORP., VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA, INC., BEAR EXPRESS TRANSPORTATION, INC., AND JAMES DAWSON, DEFENDANTS,
v.
SAPP BROS TRUCK STOPS, INC., THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants Bear Express Transportation, Inc. and James Dawson's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 116.) Third-Party Defendant Sapp also filed a brief seeking to join the moving Defendants. (Doc. 130.) For the reasons set forth below, both motions will be denied. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

BACKGROUND

This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident on October 1, 2002. Plaintiff Luis Esteras was driving a 1998 Volvo truck-tractor owned by Bear Express Transportation ("Bear Express") in the westbound lanes of interstate 84 near Kent, New York. Mr. Esteras alleges that the steering mechanism failed, causing the tractor/truck to veer off the road, striking a guard-rail, and eventually landing on the driver's side door. Mr. Esteras was working as an employee and/or subcontractor of Bear Express. James Dawson is the President and/or owner of Bear Express.

On October 24, 2003, Plaintiffs Luis and Aida Esteras filed this claim against TRW, Inc. d/b/a TRW Automotive Commercial Systems ("TRW"), Northrop Grumman Space & Missions Systems Corp. ("Northrop"), Volvo Trucks North America, Inc. ("Volvo"), Bear Express Transportation, Inc. ("Bear Express") and James Dawson. (Doc.1.) On December 15, 2003, counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendants TRW and Northrop stipulated that a German manufacturing entity that actually designed and manufactured the steering component in question will be substituted for these Defendants. (Doc. 20.) Hence, TRW Fahrwerksysteme GmbH & Co. KG ("TRWKG") substituted for TRW and Northrop. (Id.) On the same day, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 21.)

On July 13, 2004, Defendants Bear Express and Dawson's motion to dismiss (Doc. 25) was denied as untimely filed. (Doc. 51.) Subsequently, on July 16, 2004, Bear Express and Dawson filed a Cross-claim to Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. (Doc. 52.) On May 12, 2005, Plaintiffs' motion to leave file an amended complaint to add Third Party Defendant Sapp Bros. Truck Stops Inc. ("Sapp") (Doc.83) was denied for failure to file their brief in support of their motion. (Doc. 103.) On October 25, 2005, Defendants Bear Express and Dawson filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 116) to which Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition (Doc.125) and to which Defendants Bear Express and Dawson replied (Doc.134). On November 11, 2005, Sapp filed a brief to join Bear Express and Dawsons' motion for summary judgment asking that the Court dismiss Sapp from the case if summary judgment is granted as to Bear Express and Dawson. (Doc. 130.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." See id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that 1) there is no genuine issue of material fact and 2) she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL2D § 2727 (2d Ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257. The court need not accept mere conclusory allegations or denials taken from the pleadings. See Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

DISCUSSION

In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert nine (9) counts against the Defendants. Counts I-III are against Defendants TRW and Volvo. Counts IV and V are against Defendants Bear Express and Dawson. Counts VI-IX for damages are against all Defendants. In Count IV, Plaintiffs claim that Bear Express and Dawson, as employers of Mr. Esteras, are liable for negligence. Plaintiffs claim that they failed to properly inspect, maintain, service, repair and upkeep the component parts. (Doc.21 at ¶ 56.) Plaintiffs further claim that they have also failed to adequately train and advise Mr. Esteras on this matter. (Id.) In Count V, Plaintiffs claim that Bear Express and Dawson have failed to maintain Workers' Compensation insurance in violation of state law. (Id. at ¶ 63.) For these violations, Plaintiffs are asking for: (1) Count VI: punitive damages for Defendants' willful and wanton conduct as to Mr. Esteras; (2)Count VII: damages for Defendants' negligent infliction of emotional distress as to Mr. Esteras; (3) Count VIII: damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress as to Mr. Esteras; and (4) Count IX: damages for loss of consortium as to Ms. Esteras.

Defendants Bear Express and Dawson filed their motion seeking summary judgment for the following: (1) Plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence that Bear Express and Dawson have failed to properly service, maintain, inspect or repair the drag link or steering on the tractor; and (2) Plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence that Bear Express and Dawson have acted willfully and intentionally. They did not move for summary judgment on damages as to the issue of Worker's Compensation insurance nor to the loss of consortium claim. For the following reasons, Bear Express and Dawson's motion will be denied.

1. Defendants Bear Express and Dawson: Count VII as to Count IV - Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress In Pennsylvania,to obtain relief through a ...


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