United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.
CONNIE S. COLLINS, IN HER OWN BEHALF AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF BRAD D. COLLINS, DECEASED; Plaintiff,
EDWARD TATE, HOWARD TRANSPORT, INC, HOWARD INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendants,
Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Judge
case concerns an accident, involving two tractor-trailers.
Plaintiff Connie Collins brings the case on her own behalf
and as Administrator of the Estate of Brad D. Collins,
deceased ("Collins"), against Defendants Edward
Tate ("Tate"), the driver of the second truck,
Howard Transportation, Inc. ("Howard
Transportation"), Tate's employer, and Howard
Industries, Inc. ("Howard Industries"), the owner
of Howard Transportation.
parties have moved for partial summary judgment. Collins'
Motion seeks judgment that: (1) Tate was negligent as a
matter of law by failing to adhere to the assured clear
distance ahead rule; (2) Tate and Howard Transportation are
precluded, as a matter of law, from asserting affirmative
defenses of contributory negligence and/or the sudden
emergency doctrine; and (3) Howard Transportation is liable,
based upon the doctrine of respondeat superior, if
Tate is found negligent.
move for partial summary judgment on the following issues:
(1) Collins has failed to produce any evidence to support a
claim against Defendant, Howard Industries; (2) Defendant
Howard Transportation, having admitted agency, is entitled to
summary judgment on Collins' direct negligence claims;
(3) Collins' alleged comparative negligence is a jury
question; and (4) Collins cannot support her claim for lost
consideration of Collins' Complaint (ECF No. 1-2);
Defendants' Answer and Affirmative Defenses (ECF No. 4);
Collins' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Brief in
Support, Concise Statement of Material Facts, Appendix and
Exhibits (ECF Nos. 55-57); Defendants' Brief in
Opposition (ECF No. 69); Collins' Reply Brief (ECF No.
79); Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment,
Concise Statement of Material Facts, Appendix, Exhibits, and
Brief in Support (ECF Nos. 62-67); Collins' Brief in
Opposition (ECF No. 72); Defendant's Reply Brief (ECF No.
77); and for the following reasons, Collins' Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in
part, and Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
is granted in part and denied in part.
February 17, 2015, at approximately 6:35 a.m., Mr. Collins,
driving a semi-truck, with two trailers attached, was
travelling west on 1-70 in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
(ECF No. 57 at ¶ 1). Tate, acting within the course and
scope of his employment, was also travelling west on 1-70,
driving a semi-truck owned by his employer, Howard
Transportation. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3. Witnesses
reported cold weather conditions with snow along the sides of
the road, as well as spots covered in snow and ice. (ECF No.
66-2 at pp. 73:21-25, 74:18-23).
travelling at approximately 58 miles per hour, Mr. Collins
approached a slight right curve leading to a bridge,
whereupon he encountered ice. (ECF No. 57 at ¶ 4, 6,
18). He lost control of the vehicle as he travelled around
the curve, causing the truck to strike a concrete barrier.
(ECF No. 66 at ¶ 3). After coming to a stop, his tractor
partially obstructed the right-hand shoulder, and the
trailers blocked both westbound lanes of travel. Id.
at ¶ 5. The tractor and trailers were situated at the
end of the curve in the road and across both westbound lanes
of traffic. Id. at ¶ 16. Mr. Collins exited the
vehicle, purportedly to assess damage and place warning
devices. (ECF No. 57 at ¶ 8). However, in the time
between his initial accident and the subsequent collision
with Tate, Mr. Collins did not move his trailer, activate his
emergency flashers, or call 911. (ECF No. 66 at ¶ 16).
meantime, Tate was travelling westbound on 1-70, at about 66
miles per hour, in the right-hand westbound lane, and behind
an SUV. (ECF No. 57 at ¶¶ 2, 4, 9). The SUV driver
tapped the brakes and moved to the left-hand lane, and Tate
followed suit. Id. at ¶¶ 9, 11. The
distance, from where Tate could have first seen Mr.
Collins's disabled vehicle, was over 600 feet. (ECF No.
66-2 at 43:17-24). As the SUV and Tate vehicles came upon the
scene of Mr. Collins's accident, the SUV braked hard,
which prompted Tate to apply his brakes as well. (ECF No. 66
at ¶ 8). The SUV veered to the left and into the median,
successfully avoiding Collins's vehicle. (ECF No. 57 at
¶ 12; ECF No. 66 at ¶ 10). When the SUV braked
hard, Tate switched back into the right-hand lane in order to
avoid hitting the SUV. (ECF No. 57 at ¶ 26). Tate then
approached Mr. Collins's vehicle, but Tate was not able
to stop or avoid impact with Mr. Collins' vehicle.
Id. at ¶ 10. Tate did not lose control of his
vehicle until after it collided with Mr. Collins's
vehicle. (ECF No. 57 at ¶ 17). After hitting Mr.
Collins' vehicle, Tate's vehicle went through the
guardrail and over a steep hill and came to a rest
approximately 170 feet below. (ECF No. 66 at ¶ 11).
Tate collision occurred approximately 60 to 70 seconds after
Mr. Collins' initial accident. (ECF No. 66 at ¶ 13).
Tate's impact with Collins' vehicle caused Mr.
Collins' truck to rotate 90 degrees, whereupon it struck
Mr. Collins, who was still outside his vehicle. (ECF No. 57
at ¶ 15). Mr. Collins was thrown into the median by the
impact, and he ultimately died as a result of his injuries.
(ECF No. 57 at ¶ 16; ECF No. 66 at ¶ 15).
Lost Future Earnings Claim
damage claims include a claim for lost future earnings. To
calculate damages, Collins utilized economic expert, Dr.
David Boyd. Dr. Boyd issued an expert report on October 10,
2018, but later supplied a new, updated report on the day of
his deposition, February 12, 2019. (EFC No. 66 at ¶ 32).
The October 12, 2018 report purportedly applied an Ohio legal
standard, and the February 12, 2019 supplemental report
discussed the Pennsylvania "total-offset" method.
Id. at ¶ 34. In preparing his report, Dr. Boyd
did not speak with Connie Collins or with Mr. Collins'
employer. Id. at ¶ 37.
February 12, 2019 report, Dr. Boyd projected Mr. Collins'
future earning capacity based upon his potential work-life
expectancy. Id. at ¶ 42. From that, Dr. Boyd
subtracted a "personal consumption" value that
included a portion of the food that Mr. Collins would have
eaten and his expenditures for clothing. Id. at
¶ 46. Dr. Boyd did not deduct housing expenses, because
he considered such having a joint consumption value. He did
not include entertainment expenses unless those involved
something that Mr. Collins would have personally consumed
himself. Id. Dr. Boyd was not sure if health care
costs were included in the "personal consumption"
value that he used. Id.