United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. MARIANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Introduction and Procedural History
above captioned matter arises out of a motor vehicle accident
that took place in March of 2014 between a car driven by
Plaintiff, Emily Gontarski, and a tractor-trailer truck
driven by Defendant, Robert Hoag. As a result of the
accident, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant Hoag for
negligence and negligence per se. Plaintiff also asserts a
vicarious liability claim against Defendant Hoag's
employer and co-defendant, Shilling Transport, Inc. Presently
before the Court Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 13), on
one narrow issue: whether Defendant Hoag is entitled to
summary judgment on Plaintiffs claim for punitive
damages. For the reasons that follow, the Court
will deny Defendants' Motion.
Statement of Undisputed Facts
accordance with Local Rule 56.1, Defendants submitted a
Statement of Material Facts in support of their Motion for
Summary Judgment, (Doc. 14), and Plaintiff submitted a
response, (Doc. 18). Upon reading the parties'
submissions, it is clear that while the parties agree on some
basic facts, they completely disagree as to the manner in
which the accident occurred. What follows is a brief
statement of what the parties agree on followed by each
party's account of how the accident occurred:
time of the accident in question, Defendant Hoag was an
employee of Defendant Shilling Transport and was operating a
tractor and empty flatbed trailer that had a combined length
of sixty-six and a half feet. (Doc. 14 at ¶¶ 1-3,
9; Doc. 18 at ¶¶ 1-3, 9). Plaintiff was driving a
Toyota Corolla. (Doc. 14 at ¶ 3; Doc. 18 at ¶ 3).
The accident occurred at an intersection with a traffic light
in which a driver had the option of getting into one of two
lanes: a right hand lane in which a driver had the option to
go straight or turn right and a left hand lane in which the
driver had to turn left. (Doc. 14 at ¶ 13; Doc. 18 at
to Plaintiff's version of events, she was the only car
stopped at the light, which was red, and was in the right
hand lane when Defendant Hoag, traveling in the same
direction, approached the intersection. (Dep. of Emily
Gontarski, Doc. 19-2 at 83-84). Defendant Hoag pulled up to
the light in the left hand lane and stopped next to
Plaintiff. (Id. at 83, 85, 87). Defendant Hoag did
not have his blinker on. (Id. at 83-84). While the
light was still red, Defendant Hoag began to make a right
turn from the left hand lane. (Id. at 88-89).
Plaintiff honked her horn in response, but Defendant Hoag did
not stop. (Id. at 89). Then, the right rear tire of
Defendant Hoag's trailer hit the left front side of
Plaintiffs car. (Id. at 89-90). According to
Plaintiff, "[h]e hit the side of my car, stopped, and
then he proceeded to go and dragged me up onto the
sidewalk." (Id. at 89). Defendant Hoag then
drove away. (Id. at 90).
to Defendant Hoag, he approached an empty intersection and
got into the right hand lane. (Doc. 14 at ¶¶
14-16). As he made a right turn, he had to enter the left
hand lane briefly in order to avoid having his trailer hit a
telephone pole on the right side of the road. (Id.
at ¶¶ 17-18). As he straightened out his vehicle
after completing the turn, he could see a vehicle stopped in
the intersection behind him. (Id. at ¶ 20). He
then proceeded on, unaware that an accident had occurred.
(Id. at ¶¶ 21, 24). A car followed him
and, when Defendant Hoag stopped, the driver notified him
that an accident had occurred. (Id. at ¶ 25).
In an accident report that Defendant Hoag filled out the next
day, Defendant Hoag wrote that Plaintiff "must have ran
into trailer['s] rear axle and bounced out of view."
(Id. at ¶ 22).
Standard of Review
summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims
that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any
material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to
materiality, .... [o]nly disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing
the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has
been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts
contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a
genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l
Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177,
111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may
not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the
pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue
exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party
asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion by citing to particular parts of
materials in the record ... or showing that the materials
cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine
dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment
should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the
cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the
record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Inferences should
be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the
movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as
true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am.,
Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert,
denied 507 U.S. 912, 113 S.Ct. 1262, 122 L.Ed.2d 659
"facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute
as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party
has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,
its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial. The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material
fact. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one
of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no