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Annese v. U.S. Xpress Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 18, 2019

ANDREA T. ANNESE, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. XPRESS, INC. and GLENN ANDERS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBIN J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are: (1) Defendant Glenn Anders' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 136) and (2) Defendant U.S. Xpress, Inc.'s (“Xpress”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 135). Plaintiff has submitted her responses (Dkt Nos. 143, 144), and Defendants have filed their replies (Dkt. Nos. 151, 152). The motions are now at issue.

         I. Background

         On March 9, 2016, Plaintiff Andrea Annese and Defendant Glenn Anders were involved in an automobile accident in Oklahoma City. (Def. Xpress's Mot., Dkt. No. 135, p. 2.) Defendant Anders was driving a semi-trailer truck for Defendant U.S. Xpress, Inc. (“Xpress”), while Plaintiff was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro. (Id.) Prior to the wreck, the vehicles were in adjacent lanes (with Defendant Anders slightly ahead of Plaintiff in his lane) at a stoplight on South Morgan Road preparing to turn left onto Southwest 8th Street. (Id.) There were two left-hand turn lanes at this intersection; Plaintiff occupied the inside turn lane, while Defendant Anders remained in the outside lane. (Id.)

         The drivers became involved in a wreck just after they turned onto 8th Street. (Id. at 2-3.) Defendant Anders left the scene of the wreck without conferring with Plaintiff or waiting for the police to arrive. (Id. at 3; see also Pl.'s Resp. to Anders' Mot., Dkt. No. 144, p. 10.) As a result of the accident, Plaintiff alleges she has suffered bodily injury, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and property damage. (Second Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 109, p. 2.)

         Before he was hired by Defendant Xpress in 2015, Defendant Anders was fired by two previous employers in 2013 for failing backup tests. (Pl.'s Resp to Anders' Mot., Dkt. No. 144, p. 8.) He also had two preventable accidents listed on his record from 2013, well before he was hired by Defendant Xpress in 2015. (Id.) Defendant Anders was then involved in four preventable accidents between August 2015 and March 2016-he was employed by Defendant Xpress during this time. (Id.) At the time of the accident at issue, Defendant Anders was on safety and accident probation at work. (Id. at 9.) Thus, his next preventable accident subjected him to possible termination. (Pl.'s Resp. to Xpress' Mot., Dkt. No. 143, p. 4.)

         Plaintiff now brings this action against Defendant Anders for his purported negligence in causing the wreck. Additionally, Plaintiff seeks relief from Defendant Xpress, maintaining that it (1) negligently hired, trained, supervised, and retained Defendant Anders; (2) negligently entrusted him to drive its vehicles; and (3) is vicariously liable for the purported negligence of Defendant Anders under respondeat superior. (Second Amended Compl., Dkt. No. 109, p. 2.) Finally, Plaintiff seeks to recover punitive damages from both defendants. (Id. at 2-3.)

         Both Defendants now move for partial summary judgment. Defendant Anders' Motion is singularly focused-he seeks to negate Plaintiff's punitive damages claim against him, arguing that it is unsupported by the factual record. Defendant Xpress similarly attacks Plaintiff's punitive damages claim, but also attacks her negligent hiring and negligent entrustment claims as legally void. Plaintiff maintains that multiple disputes of material fact exist sufficient to warrant a jury trial on all claims.

         II. Standard

         A key policy goal and primary principle of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 sets the standard for summary judgment:

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment 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 “after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]his standard provides that 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). It is also well established that the “party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion . . . which it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), 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 non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (footnote omitted). “In its review, the Court construes the record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Garratt v. Walker, 164 F.3d 1249, 1251 (10th Cir. 1998).

         III. ...


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