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Rafael Estrada v. Joseph J. Wass

November 21, 2012

RAFAEL ESTRADA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH J. WASS, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment by the "Flying J Defendants."*fn1 (Doc. 62.) In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Rafael Estrada alleges that he was injured as a result of being struck by a tractor trailer driven by Defendant Joseph J. Wass in the parking lot of the Flying J Travel Plaza ("Flying J") in New Milford, Pennsylvania. Estrada alleges claims for negligence against Wass, Defendant Wass Trucking Company, Inc., and the Flying J Defendants. In their motion for summary judgment, the Flying J Defendants assert that Estrada has failed to establish any duty, breach thereof, or causal connection between the alleged breach and any resulting injury. (Doc. 63 at 6.) Because the Flying J Defendants owed no duty to Estrada, as the danger of Wass' moving tractor trailer driving through Flying J's parking lot was both obvious and known to him, their motion for summary judgment will be granted

I. Background

At approximately 5:00 PM on October 29, 2008, Plaintiff Rafael Estrada, who worked as a truck driver, parked his truck in the parking lot of the Flying J Travel Plaza ("Flying J") in New Milford, Pennsylvania after fueling it with diesel fuel. (Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, "Pl.'s SMF", ¶¶ 1--2, 4--5, 7; Estrada Dep. at 15:11--16.) It was still daylight at that time, and the weather conditions were "cloudy" but "fine." (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 4; Estrada Dep. at 36:6.) The parking lot of the Flying J was wet and "very congested." (Pl.'s SMF, ¶ 4; Wass Dep. at 37:16.) After parking, Estrada exited his truck and began walking alongside it toward Flying J's shop. (Pl.'s SMF ¶ 7.) Estrada, who had been to the New Milford Flying J approximately six (6) to eight (8) times before, was aware that the parking lot had no posted speed limit signs or lines directing pedestrians how or where to walk from the parking lot to the shop. (Id. at ¶¶ 10--11; Estrada Dep. at 109:4.) On his prior trips to the New Milford Flying J, he had been able to cross the parking lot without incident. (Id. at ¶ 12.)

After reaching the rear of his trailer, Estrada stopped and looked to his right and his left to see if any traffic was coming. (Estrada Dep. at 117:2--15.) Seeing no traffic, he walked approximately twenty (20) to twenty--four (24) feet toward the store and then saw a tractor trailer driven by Defendant Joseph J. Wass traveling through the parking lot at approximately ten (10) or twelve (12) miles per hour. (Id. at ¶¶ 7--8; Estrada Dep. at 112:21--25, 117:16--21.) Estrada, who frequented truck stops for a number of years prior to October 29, 2008, would always look for vehicles, including tractor trailers, when walking through the stops' parking lots. (Estrada Dep. at 112:1--16.) Estrada momentarily stopped walking upon seeing Wass's tractor trailer, which was approximately five (5) to seven (7) feet away and had partially passed in front of him, and then changed direction by walking to his right. (Id. at 118:23--119:7, 120:4--7, 120:16--21.) He changed direction to go toward the store, which was to his right, and away from the tractor trailer, which was passing in front of him from right to left. (Id. at 119:10--12, 120:16--121:16.) Estrada continued walking until he was struck by the trailer of Wass's truck, which knocked him to the ground. (Id. at 121:22--25, 46:6--11.) The four tires on the fourth axle of the truck's left side dragged Estrada's legs on the parking lot. (Id. at 47:12--48:15.) Estrada suffered various injuries to his hip and legs and has undergone numerous medical treatments, including surgeries and rehabilitation, as a result of the incident. (Am. Compl., Doc. 13 at 6--7.)

On July 27, 2010, Estrada, a California resident, brought this action under diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In his Amended Complaint, Estrada alleges claims for negligence against Wass, Defendant Wass Trucking Company, Inc., and the Flying J Defendants. With regard to the Flying J Defendants, he alleges that the accident and his resulting injuries were caused by the negligent conduct of their agents, servants, workmen, employees and/or owners, which included:

a. failure to prove clear and designated travel lanes for commercial motor vehicles while on the premises;

b. failure to implement proper routing or signaling of commercial motor vehicles while on the premises;

c. failure to have designated pedestrian zones for their sole use for travel between the Flying J Travel Center and the other facilities located on the premises;

d. failure to warn of the increased dangers posed to individuals on the premises because of [Defendants'] failures to implement procedures and rules to prevent injury described herein;

e. failure to design the property to facilitate the safe movement of commercial vehicles;

f. failure to conduct adequate traffic studies to determine the movements, traffic flow and volume of commercial vehicles upon the property;

g. failure to discover and warn of commercial motor vehicles making sudden and unexpected turns and transitions in order to maneuver the property;

h. failure to protect against the known or knowable dangers alleged herein;

i. failure to provide adequate security on the premises to control the movement ...


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