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Melgar v. Weinstein

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 23, 2014

CARHILT MELGAR & DANIEL SPERLING, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM WEINSTEIN & KAZIMIEREZ SPERLING, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Kazimierez Sperling ("Defendant Sperling")'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26). The instant action relates to injuries sustained by Plaintiffs Carhilt Melgar ("Plaintiff Melgar") and Daniel Sperling ("Plaintiff Sperling") following a traffic accident that occurred on January 15, 2011. Defendant Sperling is Plaintiff Sperling's father. Defendant Sperling contends that summary judgment in his favor is warranted because the evidence demonstrates that he could not have done anything to avoid the accident and a reasonable jury could not conclude that he breached any duty of care that he may have owed the Plaintiffs. Because there is material issue of fact as to the speed Defendant Sperling's car was traveling at the time of the accident, the motion for summary judgment will be denied.

BACKGROUND

A. Relevant Factual Background

On January 15, 2011, Plaintiffs were passengers in a 2002 BMW driven by Defendant Sperling traveling Northbound on Highway SR0191 ("Route 191"). ( Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 23.) Co-Defendant William Weinstein was traveling Southbound on the same road, driving a 2004 Ford Explorer.[1] ( Id. at ¶¶ 21, 7.) The accident occurred in a tunnel on Route 191 as Defendant Weinstein's vehicle crossed over the yellow line into oncoming traffic, colliding with Defendant Sperling's vehicle. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24, 29, 30; Def.'s Ans., Doc. 15, ¶¶ 24, 28-30.) Plaintiff Melgar alleges that he was inured as a result of the accident ( Am. Compl. ¶¶ 34-35) although Defendant Sperling denies this allegation ( Def.'s Ans., ¶¶ 34-49). Similarly, Plaintiff Sperling alleges that he was injured as a result of the accident ( Am. Compl. ¶¶ 42-43) although Defendant Sperling denies this allegation as well ( Def.'s Ans., ¶¶ 34-49).

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a Complaint (Doc. 1) on September 25, 2012. On October 16, 2012 Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 4) to correct jurisdictional deficiencies in their initial Complaint. In Count One of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Melgar asserts a claim of negligence against Defendant Weinstein. In Count Two, Plaintiff Melgar asserts a claim of negligence against Defendant Sperling. In Count Three, Plaintiff Sperling asserts a claim of negligence against Defendant Weinstein. Finally, in Count Four, Plaintiff Sperling asserts a claim of negligence against Defendant Sperling. Subsequently, the action proceeded to discovery.

On April 23, 2014, Defendant Sperling filed the instant motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26), his brief in support (Doc. 28), and statement of facts (Doc. 27). Plaintiffs filed their brief in opposition (Doc. 29) on May 13, 2014. Defendant Sperling filed his reply brief (Doc. 30) on May 16, 2014. Thus, the motion for summary judgment is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Summary judgment is appropriate when 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.'" Wright v. Corning, 679 F.3d 101, 103 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. 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. See Edelman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 83 F.3d 68, 70 (3d Cir. 1996). However, where there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. 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 2D Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the non-moving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the court that "the non-moving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

"When considering whether there exist genuine issues of material fact, the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving 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. 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).

"To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must show specific facts such that a reasonable jury could find in that party's favor, thereby establishing a genuine issue of fact for trial." Galli v. N.J. Meadowlands Comm'n, 490 F.3d 265, 270 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). "While the evidence that the non-moving party presents may be either direct or circumstantial, and need not be as great as a preponderance, the evidence must be more than a scintilla." Id. (quoting Hugh v. Butler Cnty. Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005)). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function ...


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