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Ulman v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 15, 2017



          C. DARNELL JONES, II J.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Amalia Ulman brings this action against Defendants for personal injuries sustained as a passenger in a bus accident on October 9, 2013. Now before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel. (ECF No. 55.) Additionally, Defendants C.A.V. Enterprise, LLC and Akos Gubica have filed a Motion to Dismiss based exclusively on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, which Plaintiff does not oppose. (ECF No. 44.) For the reasons that follow, both motions shall be granted.

         II. Background

         On October 9, 2013, a bus owned by Greyhound Lines, Inc. and driven by Sabrina Anderson (hereinafter “Greyhound Defendants”) was involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer owned by C.A.V. Enterprises and operated by Akos Gubica (hereinafter “Gubica Defendants”). (SUF ¶ 1.)[1] The bus was traveling on Interstate 80 heading westbound in Union County, Pennsylvania. (SUF ¶ 1.) Plaintiff and 46 other individuals were passengers of the Greyhound bus at the time of the accident. (SUF ¶ 2.)

         During the pendency of this case, litigation involving several other passengers who were injured on the bus has been ongoing or has resulted in verdicts for the plaintiffs. (SUF ¶ 9.) Cases have arisen in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. In the Ohio case, Gubica Defendants were dismissed with prejudice prior to trial and a jury returned a verdict against Greyhound Defendants. (SUF ¶¶ 12-13.) Accordingly, the jury in the Ohio case did not consider the liability of Gubica Defendants, nor was it presented with the question of whether any contribution was due to Greyhound Defendants. (SUF ¶ 14.)

         Several passengers brought suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Brown et al. v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. et al., and Livingston et al. v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. et al. These two actions (hereinafter “Philadelphia Cases”) were consolidated for purposes of discovery and trial. (SUF ¶ 15). On May 12, 2016, the Honorable Mark I. Bernstein ordered that four (4) of the plaintiffs would be tried together in an “Initial Trial” and the remaining twelve (12) plaintiffs would proceed to trial at a later date. (SUF ¶ 18.)

         On July 15, 2016, the Honorable Angelo J. Foglietta ruled that the “Initial Trial” of the four (4) plaintiffs would have a collateral estoppel effect on all remaining trials in the Philadelphia Cases “on the issue of the liability of the defendants, if any.” (SUF ¶ 19.) Further, the court limited the expert testimony of Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Steven A. Schmit, a trained Accident Reconstructionist. (SUF ¶ 20.) Per Orders issued on May 18, 2016 and May 31, 2016, Corporal Schmit was not permitted to offer his opinion based upon the Pennsylvania State Police accident reconstruction, that Gubica Defendants were the “main causal factor” of the collision. (SUF ¶ 21.) Additionally, Judge Foglietta excluded testimony regarding Gubica's alleged intoxication, finding the probative value of said testimony was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. (SUF ¶¶ 23-24.)

         On July 22, 2016, the jury in the Initial Trial returned a verdict allocating 45% of the fault to Greyhound and the remainder to Ms. Anderson. The jury further found that the Gubica Defendants were not negligent. (SUF ¶ 26.) Subsequently, all but one of the remaining plaintiffs in the Philadelphia Cases settled. (SUF ¶ 27.)

         On January 12, 2017 and February 1, 2017, Greyhound Defendants filed Notices of Appeal related to the claims of the four (4) plaintiffs involved in the Initial Trial. (SUF 28.) On February 3, 2017, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ordered that the claims of the sole remaining Plaintiff in the Philadelphia Cases, would proceed to trial on February 27, 2017. (SUF ¶ 29.) On February 15, 2017, Greyhound Defendants filed an emergency motion to stay the trial of the sole remaining Plaintiff pending the resolution of appeal regarding the four (4) initial trial Plaintiffs and said Motion was granted pursuant to Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure § 1701 (a). (SUF ¶¶ 30-31.)

         Another related case pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York was initially set for trial in May 2017 but was postponed as a result of the stay entered in the Philadelphia cases. (SUF ¶ 10.)

         Turning to the instant case, on or about October 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit against Greyhound in the 193 Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas seeking compensatory and punitive damages for injuries she sustained in the bus accident. (SUF ¶ 32-34.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed an amended petition, joining the Gubica Defendants as parties to the action. (SUF ¶ 33.) On or about October 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit against Greyhound Defendants and Gubica Defendants in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. (SUF 35.) On October 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Nonsuit in Texas state court. (SUF 36.) Greyhound Defendants removed Plaintiffs case to this Court on October 27, 2015, based on diversity jurisdiction. (SUF ¶ 37.)

         III. Standards of Review

         A. ...

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