United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
KENYATTA I. PATTON, and HARTFORD CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC., DEFENDANT
Kenyatta I. Patton, Plaintiff: Aafram Y. Sellers, LEAD
ATTORNEY, SELLERS & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Jackson, MS; Brice R.
White, LEAD ATTORNEY, THE LAW OFFICE OF BRICE R. WHITE, PLLC,
North Little Rock, AR; Reginald Paul Harrion, LEAD ATTORNEY,
THE HARRION LAW FIRM, PLLC, Jackson, MS.
Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, Plaintiff: Peter L.
Corson, UPSHAW, WILLIAMS, BIGGERS & BECKHAM, LLP, Ridgeland,
Nissan North America, Inc., Defendant: James M. Tyrone, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Caroline K. Ivanov, WATKINS & EAGER, PLLC, Jackson,
MS; Mark D. Jicka, LEAD ATTORNEY, WATKINS & EAGER, Jackson,
P. Jordan III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
personal-injury action is before the Court on Nissan North
America, Inc.'s (" Nissan" ) Motion for Summary
Judgment , pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56. After considering the parties' submissions and
hearing oral argument, the Court concludes that Plaintiff
Kenyatta I. Patton has failed to establish that Nissan owed
him a duty of care or that Nissan's alleged conduct
proximately caused his injuries. Nissan's Motion for
Summary Judgment  is therefore granted, and this action
is due to be dismissed.
Facts and Procedural History
Kenyatta I. Patton is a former commercial truck driver for
Specialized Transportation Services (" STS" ). On
November 13, 2011, Patton picked up a trailer at Nissan's
Canton, Mississippi plant that Nissan had already loaded.
Though Patton was concerned that Nissan had not properly
loaded and secured the cargo, he drove off without taking any
corrective action. Two turns later, Patton heard a "
pop," looked in his mirrors, and saw the trailer tip
over and pull the tractor and Patton into a ditch. Patton was
allegedly injured in the accident. Patton claims that the
unsecured cargo caused the accident and sues Nissan for
negligence and negligence per se. Compl. [1-1]. Following
discovery, Nissan moved  for summary judgment. The Court
has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared
Standard of Review
judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute
regarding any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "
mandates the entry of summary judgment, 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. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
party moving for summary judgment " bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323.
The nonmoving party must then " go beyond the
pleadings" and " designate 'specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'"
Id. at 324. In reviewing the evidence, factual
controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant,
" but only when . . . both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid
Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc)
(per curiam). When such contradictory facts exist, the court
may " not make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods.,
Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105
(2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated
assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted
an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine
issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of
Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002);
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; SEC v. Recile, 10
F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993) (per curiam).
contends that Nissan was negligent in the way it loaded and
secured the cargo. To establish negligence, he must show
duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Duckworth
v. Warren, 10 So.3d 433, 440 (Miss. 2009). Nissan
challenges Patton's proof on the duty and causation
Breach of Duty
Nissan owed Patton a duty is a question of law decided by the
Court. See Rein v. Benchmark Constr. Co.,
865 So.2d 1134, 1143 (Miss. 2004) (en banc). And in a
majority of jurisdictions, the duties a shipper owes a
carrier are established by the policy enunciated in
United States v. Savage Truck Line, Inc., where the
Fourth Circuit held that
[t]he primary duty as to safe loading of property is . . .
upon the carrier. When the shipper assumes the responsibility
of loading, the general rule is that he becomes liable for
the defects which are latent and concealed and cannot be
discerned by ordinary observation by the agents of the
carrier; but if the improper loading is apparent, the carrier
will be liable notwithstanding the negligence of the shipper.
209 F.2d 442, 445 (4th Cir. 1953); see also
Whiteside v. United States, No. 1:11-CV-154, 2013 WL
2355522, at *6 (E.D. Tex. May 28, 2013) (" [T]he
rationale embodied in the Savage rule is followed by
a majority of jurisdictions." (collecting cases)). The
parties dispute whether Mississippi would likewise adopt this
rule. But as
explained below, the specific facts of this case allow a
decision based on existing Mississippi law that is in ways
similar to Savage. There is no need to make an
Erie guess whether ...