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Grosek v. Panther Transportation

February 20, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)


Before the court is defendants' motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 50). Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.


This case arises out of an accident between an automobile driven by Plaintiff Helen Grosek and a tractor-trailer driven by Defendant Anthony Sanders. (Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 50) at ¶ 1).*fn1 On the date of the accident, May 14, 2007, Defendant Sanders was operating a tractor-trailer traveling southbound on Route 309 in Dallas Township, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 13).

His truck collided with plaintiff's vehicle at the intersection of Route 309 with East Center Hill Road. (Id. at ¶ 16). The parties dispute whether Sanders drove through a red light before his truck struck the plaintiff's car or whether the light had merely turned yellow when the truck entered the intersection. (Id. at ¶ 14). (Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 54) at ¶ 14). Sanders pled guilty to failing to stop at a red traffic signal, however. (Sanders Deposition (Exh. 1 to Plaintiff's Response) (Doc. 55-6) at 189).

Sanders had received training from Caldwell Community College to meet the requirements for obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). (Defendants' Motion at ¶ 17). During his previous employment with United Parcel Service (UPS), Sanders received training as well. (Id. at ¶ 18). As part of his UPS training, Sanders had instruction from an on-the-road trainer, as well as receiving written materials and videotapes. (Id. at ¶ 19). On the date of the accident, Sanders was employed as an independent contractor. (Id. at ¶ 20). The parties dispute the amount of training Defendant Sanders received from the Defendant Company as part of this independent contractor status. Defendants contend that Sanders received seven days of classroom training. (Id. at ¶ 21). Plaintiffs insist that the evidence demonstrates he received only three days of such training. (Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 21). The parties also dispute whether plaintiff received both written materials and videotapes, or just written materials, as part of his training. (Motion at ¶ 22; Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 22). They also disagree about whether Sanders received training in the Smith System of driving techniques or any defensive driving training. (Motion at ¶ 23; Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 23). Sanders did receive and read Defendant Panther's driver handbook and safety manual. (Motion at ¶ 24). The parties also disagree about whether additional mandatory training existed. (Motion at ¶ 25; Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 25).

The parties disagree about the experience and training that Defendant Sanders had at the time Panther hired him, and about whether this training and experience was adequate. Defendant Panther contends that its drivers are required to have six months of verifiable tractor-trailer driving experience before they are hired. (Motion at ¶ 26). Sanders did not have six months experience as a driver when he was hired, but had that experience when Defendant Panther included Sanders' time in driving school in its calculations. (Motion at ¶¶ 26-27; Plaintiff's Response at ¶¶ 26-27). Defendant Panther insists that Sanders met all of its driver eligibility requirements. (Motion at ¶ 30). Panther did not require Sanders to complete a written or road test before his hiring. (Id. at ¶ 29). Panther contends that Sanders's possession of a CDL obviated the need for such testing, but plaintiffs insist that even with his CDL Sanders did not meet the company's driver qualifications. (Plaintiff's Response at ¶ 29).


This court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiffs are Pennsylvania citizens, and the defendant corporations incorporated and with their principle places of business in states other than Pennsylvania. Defendant Sanders is a citizen of North Carolina. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Because the court is sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Legal Standard

The case is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. Granting summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts ...

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