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Prescott v. R&L Transfer, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 2, 2015

WILLIAM PRESCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
R&L TRANSFER, INC., GREENWOOD MOTOR LINES d/b/a R&L CARRIERS, and R&L CARRIERS SHARED SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff William Prescott ("Plaintiff" or "Prescott") (ECF No. 95) and Defendants R&L Transfer, Inc., Greenwood Motor Lines d/b/a R&L Carriers, and R&L Carriers Shared Services LLC (collectively, "Defendants" or "R&L") (ECF No. 96). Each party has filed a brief in opposition to the opposing party's motion. (ECF No. 102, 104). For the reasons that follow, Prescott's motion for summary judgment will be denied; R&L's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

III. Background

In July 2009, Prescott was working as a self-employed independent truck driver for FedEx Ground. (ECF No. 99-3 at 70). Prescott's daily route required him to pull two twin-trailers (also known as "twin pups") along a stretch of I-80 between the FedEx terminal in Lewisbury, Pennsylvania and a turn-around point in Emlenton, Pennsylvania. ( Id . at 70-71, 74-75). Prescott would switch trailers with another driver in Emlenton and return home along the same route. ( Id . at 71).

At approximately 12:35 A.M. on the night of July 14, 2009, Prescott was driving his standard route west on I-80 towards Emlenton. (ECF No. 98-1 at 127, 133, 137). Clark Mead ("Mead"), a driver for R&L, was operating a green R&L truck in the immediate vicinity of Prescott's vehicle. (ECF No. 99-8; ECF No. 99-18). Two other commercial drivers, Stephen Page ("Page") and David Desrosiers ("Desrosiers"), were traveling west on I-80 some distance behind Mead and Prescott. (ECF No. 99-1 at 10-11; ECF No. 99-2 at 7-8).

According to Prescott, he was driving at a speed of approximately 60 or 65 miles per hour in the right-hand lane when he noticed a green tractor with white trailers (subsequently identified as the vehicle driven by Mead) approaching on the left in an attempt to pass. (ECF No. 98-1 at 135-36). Prescott testified at his deposition that the green truck began to merge back into the right lane before it had completely cleared Prescott's vehicle, forcing Prescott off the highway. ( Id . at 136). Prescott hit his head and lost consciousness as he left the road, and he has no other recollection of the events of that night. ( Id . at 136-37; ECF No. 99-3 at 17-20).

Immediately prior to the accident, Page and Desrosiers were driving in tandem approximately a half a mile behind Mead and Prescott. (ECF No. 99-1 at 15-16, 19; ECF No. 99-2 at 17). Page, traveling in the lead, testified that he and Desrosiers had been following the two vehicles for several miles and were slowly gaining ground. (ECF No. 99-1 at 16). Page observed that the trucks belonging to Prescott and Mead were traveling with one in front of the other, rather than side by side, although he could not tell which lane they were in. ( Id . at 18-19). Neither Page nor Desrosiers ever saw Mead's truck change lanes or attempt a passing maneuver, although each acknowledged losing visual contact with the vehicles on occasion due to the twists and turns of the road. ( Id . at 24-28; ECF No. 99-2 at 85, 88, 91).

While approaching the site of the accident, Page had a clear view of Mead's vehicle. (ECF No. 99-1 at 27-29, 75-76, 84; ECF No. 99-16 at 51-53, 95-96). Page saw Mead suddenly engage the hazard lights on his truck and slowly pull off to the right side of I-80. (ECF No. 99-1 at 27-29, 75-76, 84; ECF No. 99-16 at 101-02). Page testified that he had a direct line of sight to Mead's vehicle both immediately before and after Mead engaged his hazard lights. (ECF No. 99-1 at 27-29, 75-76, 84; ECF No. 99-16 at 51-53, 95-96). Page suspected that Mead's truck had blown a tire and prepared to pull over to offer assistance. (ECF No. 99-1 at 74). As he pulled over, Page observed Prescott's truck in flames at the bottom of the embankment. ( Id . at 29-30, 89). Page had not seen Prescott's vehicle leave the road and had assumed that the truck in front of Mead had simply continued on along I-80. ( Id . at 74).

Page parked his truck several hundred yards in front of Mead's R&L truck and jumped down the embankment to render assistance to Prescott. ( Id . at 34-36). Page opened the door of Prescott's vehicle and removed Prescott from the cab. ( Id . at 36-37). He then called to Desrosiers and Mead for assistance and the three men pulled Prescott away from his burning vehicle. ( Id . at 38-40, 93-94). Page observed that Prescott had suffered severe burns and injuries all over his face and arms. ( Id . at 37-39). After removing Prescott from his vehicle, Page did not leave Prescott's side at any point until medical personnel arrived. ( Id . at 97).

While waiting for medical help to arrive, Prescott slipped in and out of consciousness. ( Id . at 95, 98-100). Page testified that it "took him a little bit, and then he seemed to come out of it and asked: what's happening? What's going on? And - and he cried about his truck, and - and we talked to him." ( Id . at 40-41). Page asked Prescott how the accident had occurred and Prescott said he didn't know what had happened. ( Id . at 100). Emergency medical responders similarly indicated that Prescott expressed no recollection as to what had happened before or after the accident. (ECF No. 99-6 at 36-37, 47; ECF No. 99-7 at 1; ECF No. 99-32 at 1). However, Desrosiers testified that Prescott blurted out the following statement shortly after being pulled from his truck: "I was cut off, I was cut off. My tractor, my tractor was cut off." (ECF No. 99-2 at 23-24).

At some point after Prescott was removed from his vehicle, Desrosiers instructed Mead to move his truck to make room for emergency responders. ( Id . at 16). Mead re-entered his vehicle and left the scene, continuing his route along I-80. ( Id . at 26-27; ECF No. 99-18). Neither Page nor ...


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