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Arias v. Decker Transportation

February 14, 2008

BIENVENDIO ARIAS AND ANNA ARIAS, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DECKER TRANSPORTATION AND MAUD BLUE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 35) and Defendants' Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 51.) Because there are questions of material fact regarding whether Defendant Blue was acting in a reckless manner at the time of the collision, the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be denied. As Defendants' Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is untimely, that motion will be stricken from the record. However, the Defendants are not precluded from raising these arguments at the appropriate time in a motion in limine.

As the Plaintiffs are citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Defendants are citizens of the State of New Jersey, and the amount in controversy exceeds seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000), jurisdiction exists under section 1332 of Title 28 of the United States Code ("diversity jurisdiction").

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are Bienvendio and Anna Arias. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts in Supp. Of Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Doc. 45 ¶ 1; Pls.' Counterstatement of Material Facts, Doc. 53 ¶ 1.) The action arises out of a tractor-trailer accident that occurred on January 26, 2004. (Doc. 45 ¶ 2; Doc. 53 ¶ 2.) The Defendant-driver, Maud Blue, was operating a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Defendant Decker Tranport Co., Inc. ("Decker"). (Doc. 45 ¶ 3; Doc. 53 ¶ 3.) The accident occurred on the westbound side of Interstate 80. (Doc. 45 ¶ 4; Doc. 53 ¶ 4.) The front of the tractor-trailer impacted the rear of the Plaintiffs' vehicle. (Doc. 45 ¶ 5; Doc. 53 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff Bienvenido Arias alleges that he incurred personal injuries as a result of this accident. (Doc 45 ¶ 6; Doc. 53 ¶ 6.)

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on March 17, 2006 in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County. (Doc. 1.) On March 28, 2006, the action was removed to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) On October 31, 2006, Defendants filed their Answer and Affirmative Defenses. (Doc. 9.) On December 31, 2007, Defendants filed the present Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 35.) On February 12, 2008, the Court approved an Order stipulating the dismissal of certain claims for punitive damages and precluding the Plaintiffs from calling James Henderson as a witness. (Doc. 52.) Defendants filed an Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on February 11, 2008. (Doc. 50.)

The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

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 nonexistence 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." 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) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 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 reasonable 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 Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). 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 256-57.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (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 ...


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