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Dorsey v. Blue Bird Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Delta Division

October 6, 2014

XAVIER DORSEY and VALERIE TUCKER, Individually, as Legal Guardian and as Mother and Next Friend of Nekesha Dorsey, A Minor, PLAINTIFFS

For Xavier Dorsey, Valerie Tucker, Individually, as Legal Guardian and As Mother and Next of Friend of Nekesha Dorsey, A Minor, Plaintiffs: Gerald Haggart Jacks, Jamie Ferguson Jacks, LEAD ATTORNEYS, JACKS LUCIANO, P.A., Cleveland, MS; Ralph E. Chapman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Dana J. Swan, Sara Bailey Russo, CHAPMAN, LEWIS & SWAN - Clarksdale, Clarksdale, MS.

For Blue Bird Corporation, Blue Bird Body Company, Defendants: Hugh Ruston Comley, Walter T. Johnson, Mark D. Jicka, LEAD ATTORNEYS, WATKINS & EAGER, Jackson, MS; Caroline K. Ivanov, WATKINS & EAGER PLLC, Jackson, MS.

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This cause comes before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Upon due consideration of the motion, response, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the court is ready to rule.

Factual and Procedural Background

This action arises from an April 1, 2011 vehicular accident at the intersection of Highway 450 and Highway 61 in Bolivar County, Mississippi, in which a 1994 Blue Bird school bus owned by the Shaw School District collided with a gravel truck owned by Southeast Gravel Co., Inc. (" Southeast Gravel" ), and operated by Michael Tadlock, who was delivering gravel to Mid South Water and Machine Works, LLC (" Mid South" ). The plaintiffs were aboard the school bus at the time of the collision and suffered injuries. The school bus was designed and manufactured by defendant Blue Bird Body Company.[1] The school bus was sold to the school district by Waters Truck & Tractor Co., Inc. (" Waters" ).

This court denied the plaintiffs' motion to remand and dismissed Waters, a non-diverse defendant, finding that it was exempt from liability under the innocent seller provision of the Mississippi Products Liability Statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-63(h). The court also found that the plaintiff had no plausible claim against defendant Mid South, which was simply a customer of Southeast Gravel, and dismissed Mid South along with Waters. The plaintiffs settled their claims against Southeast Gravel and Michael Tadlock, and they have been dismissed. The plaintiff also initially sued IC Bus, LLC, Navistar International Corporation, and Navistar International Transportation Corp. These parties were dismissed by an agreed order early in the litigation. The only remaining defendants are, therefore, Blue Bird Body Company and Blue Bird Corporation (collectively " Blue Bird" ).

Standard of Review

A party is entitled to summary judgment " if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to " go beyond the pleadings and by . . . affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324

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(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e)). Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

" [T]he issue of fact must be 'genuine.' 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." Id. at 586. " Unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Brown v. City of Houston, Tex., 337 F.3d 539, 541 (5th Cir. 2003). Further, self-serving " affidavit or deposition testimony setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Clark v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 110 F.3d 295, 297 (5th Cir. 1997).

The court must render summary judgment in favor of the moving party if " there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 135, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). The Supreme Court has cautioned, however, that the ruling court must ...

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