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Ammary v. William Edwards

July 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jones, J.


I. Introduction

The above-captioned matter involves personal injury claims resulting from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on May 8, 2007. Plaintiff Atef Ammary was operating a school bus on Route 78 in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, when a tractor trailer being driven by Defendant Keith Coleman collided into the rear of the bus. The tractor trailer was owned by Defendant William Edwards, Inc. and it is alleged that Mr. Coleman was an employee, servant, workman, agent or authorized user of the truck, therefore Defendants were individually, directly, jointly, severally and vicariously negligent for the various injuries Mr. Ammary sustained. Plaintiff Atef Ammary's wife, Donna Ammary, is claiming loss of consortium, as well as expenses incurred in paying for her husband's medications, medical care and hospitalization.

Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, seeking judgment on the issue of liability only. Defendants have responded and said Motion is currently before this Court for disposition. For the reasons set forth hereinbelow, Plaintiffs' Motion will be granted.

II. Undisputed Facts

Plaintiffs Atef and Donna Ammary (husband and wife) instituted this action by filing a Complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on March 5, 2009. Said Complaint alleged that on or about May 8, 2007, Plaintiff Atef Ammary*fn1 was employed as a truck/bus mechanic for J&J Leasing and also maintained a Commercial Driver's License. (Doc. No. 21, ¶¶1-2.) Soon after clocking in that day, Plaintiff was advised by his employer that he was going to drive a luxury bus to transport a group of middle school children from Allentown to Gettysburg. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 2.) Plaintiff performed his pre-trip inspection, picked the children up from school, and transported them to Gettysburg without incident. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 3.) The accident at issue occurred on the trip home from Gettysburg, along Interstate I-78, near the Hamburg exit. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 3.) This portion of the highway was a four-lane divided highway with two lanes in each direction. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 4.) Plaintiff had been in the right lane for approximately five minutes prior to the accident but moved to the left lane in response to a sign which indicated that the right lane was being closed due to construction. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 5.) Approximately a half mile in front of him, Plaintiff observed electric, yellow arrow merge signs in the right lane and traffic slowing in the left lane. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 6.) As Plaintiff came to a stop, he looked in both rear-view mirrors, at which time he noticed Defendants' tractor trailer approaching at a fast rate of speed. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 7.) The tractor trailer ultimately struck the rear of the bus. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 8.)

State Trooper Alex Douglas arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and reported the details of the collision, including the identity of the parties, vehicle descriptions, and road specifications. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 9.) Trooper Douglas' deposition testimony, as corroborated by his report, was that Defendant Coleman told the trooper that the bus was in the left lane and he was in the right but that he waited to long to merge, thereby colliding into the rear passenger side of the bus. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 10.) Trooper Douglas further testified that Defendant Coleman told him that the crash was his fault. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 10.)

While still at the accident scene, Defendant Coleman notified Defendant William Edwards, Inc.'s (hereinafter "Defendant Edwards") Safety Director, James Belshee, who conducted an internal investigation of the accident. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 11.) Defendant Coleman told Mr. Belshee that he was traveling eastbound through a construction zone on Route 78 and was unable to stop his tractor trailer, thereby colliding into the rear of Plaintiff's bus. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 12.) Defendant Coleman was discharged from employment as a result of the accident. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 13.)

It is undisputed that Defendant Coleman impacted the rear of the bus and that he has no recollection of the following details:

- Where he was heading at the time of the accident; - What time he was due to arrive there; - The details of any construction or lane closures at or near the accident site; - Whether he applied his brakes or not or left any skid marks; - How long he was in the right lane; or - Whether he saw brake lights in front of cars in front of him prior to the impact. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 16(a)-(f).)

Defendant Coleman has testified that there was nothing about the road conditions that he felt contributed to the accident and in fact authored a Statement on the day of the accident, acknowledging that the right lane on Route 78 was closing and that while he was looking into his rear-view mirror, he merged left into the rear of the bus. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 16.) Defendant Coleman's Statement contains no information indicating that the bus driver contributed in any way to the accident. (Doc. No. 21, ¶ 16.)

III. Discussion

The standard for assessing a Motion for Summary Judgment is well-settled:

A court should grant summary judgment "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." The Supreme Court has further ruled that a "genuine" issue exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving ...

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