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Maruca v. Golden Eagle Express

March 3, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Pending before the Court is DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT with a brief in support (Document Nos. 24, 25). Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition to the motion (Document Nos. 28). The parties have fully stated their respective positions regarding the Concise Statement of Material Facts and have submitted numerous exhibits (Document Nos. 26, 27, 29, 30). The motion is ripe for disposition.

Factual and Procedural Background

This case arose out of a tragic automobile accident which occurred on December 13, 2005 in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. The decedent, Michele Maruca, and his wife, Ohla Maruca, were driving north on Route 65, known locally as Ohio River Boulevard, in a white sport utility vehicle ("SUV"). Also traveling north on Route 65 were two tractor trailers owned by Defendant Golden International ("Golden") and driven by Defendant Lionel Giroux and Jean Guy Langlois. Golden is based in Quebec, Canada and Giroux and Langlois are also citizens of Quebec, Canada. Route 65 is a four-lane road, with two travel lanes in each direction separated by a double-yellow line. As Maruca attempted to pass the two tractor trailers being operated by Giroux and Langlois, his SUV crossed over the double-yellow line, and was struck by another tractor trailer that was traveling southbound. As a result of the collision, Maruca sustained serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Plaintiff Giovanni Ross Maruca, son of the decedent and executor of his estate, filed this lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Defendants timely removed the case to this Court. On October 10, 2008, the Court entered a Case Management Order ("CMO") which established a discovery deadline of January 30, 2009. On January 30, 2009, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to extend the discovery deadline until June 30, 2009. The docket reflects virtually no activity by Plaintiff during the ensuing eleven months.*fn1 On December 9, 2009, Plaintiff requested a stay of this case pending the outcome of a separate state court action. Defendants opposed the stay and filed a motion to preclude Plaintiff from deposing Giroux, Langlois and Golden nearly six months after the close of discovery. The Court denied Plaintiff's request for a stay, granted Defendants' motion for protective order, and issued a scheduling order for the filing of summary judgment motions.

Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reads, in pertinent part, as follows: [Summary Judgment] shall be rendered forthwith 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.

In interpreting Rule 56(c), the United States Supreme Court has stated:

The plain language... mandates entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be "no genuine issue as to material fact," since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986).

An issue of material fact is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must view the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests with the movant. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The "existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against the moving party." Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (quoting Smith v. Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co., 464 F.2d 870, 874 (3d Cir. 1972)). Final credibility determinations on material issues cannot be made in the context of a motion for summary judgment, nor can the district court weigh the evidence. Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632 (3d Cir. 1993); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224 (3d Cir. 1993).

When the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party's burden can be "discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the District Court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party has carried this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who cannot rest on the allegations of the pleadings and must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, 998 F.2d at 1230. When the non-moving party's evidence in opposition to a properly supported motion for summary judgment is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," the court may grant summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250.

Legal Analysis

The complaint in this diversity action asserts a claim for negligence under Pennsylvania law. In particular, the complaint alleges that Defendants were negligent in: (1) failing to properly secure the trailer; (2) failing to inspect the trailer; (3) failing to properly insure the tractor trailer was safe for hauling prior to utilizing the tractor trailer; (4) allowing a wide trailer to be operated on public roadways; (5) in taking a tractor trailer onto public highways when it was unsafe to do so; (6) in failing to properly warn the decedent of the wide load; (7) in failing to properly provide warning signage of the wide load that the defendants were hauling; (8) in failing to allow the decedent to safely pass in the left hand lane of north bound Route 65; (9) in permitting defendant Lionel Giroux to use a tractor trailer when the defendants knew or should have known that the tractor trailer was unsafe for travel on public roadways; (10) in violating the motor vehicle code of Pennsylvania; (11) in violating the rules and regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; (12) in violating the rules and regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and (13) in failing to properly operate the tractor trailer. In summary, Plaintiff alleges that because of the width of the tractor trailer driven by ...

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