United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
CHARLENE D. RICE PLAINTIFF
A&S TRANSPORTATION, INC. DEFENDANT
Sharion Aycock, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Rice originally filed this case in the Circuit Court of Lee
County, Mississippi. A&S Transportation, Inc. removed the
case to this Court on October 23, 2015, invoking diversity
jurisdiction. A&S Transportation filed a Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment  requesting summary judgment in
its favor on several issues. Rice responded , and A&S
Transportation replied  making this motion ripe for
and Procedural Background
claims in this case arise from an automobile accident that
occurred on June 4, 2012. The Plaintiff's automobile
collided with a tractor-trailer driven by an employee of the
Defendant after the driver of the tractor-trailer failed to
stop at a stop sign, and failed to yield when merging into
the lanes of oncoming traffic in which the Plaintiff was
traveling. The Plaintiff sustained injuries in the accident
and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant
A&S Transportation now requests summary judgment in its
favor on all claims for damages related to the
Plaintiff's right arm, including carpal tunnel, ulnar
nerve, her middle finger, and disfigurement, and on the issue
of punitive damages.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary
judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
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).
moving party “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, 106 S.Ct. 2548. 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, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In
reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be
resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . .
. both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory
facts.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. 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).
Related to the Plaintiff's Right Arm
after the accident, the Plaintiff underwent surgeries for
carpal tunnel, to her ulnar nerve, and to her middle finger.
The Plaintiff alleges that she has scarring and disfigurement
because of these surgeries and that these surgeries were
necessary to treat injuries sustained in the accident. The
Defendant argues that the Plaintiff cannot demonstrate,
within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the
injuries to her right arm were caused by the accident. In
support of its argument the Defendant points to particular
portions of the deposition testimony of the Plaintiff's
treating physician Dr. Alan Pritchard. The Plaintiff
responds by arguing that she can prove that her injuries were
caused by the accident and that when Pritchard's
testimony is considered in its totality, the requisite causal
link is established.
Court has reviewed the record in this case and finds that the
Parties' opposing arguments as to the causal link between
the Plaintiff's injuries and the accident are the result
of conflicting testimony, and specifically, differing
interpretations of the physician's testimony. This is
precisely the type of factual controversy inappropriate for
weighing and credibility determination in the summary
judgment context. See Little, 37 F.3d at 1075;
Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097. For this
reason, the Defendant failed to demonstrate that the
Plaintiff cannot establish the existence of an element
essential to her case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106
S.Ct. 2548. Summary judgment is denied on the Plaintiff's
claims for damages related to her right arm.
Mississippi Code authorizes punitive damages if a claimant
can “prove by clear and convincing evidence that the
defendant against whom punitive damages are sought acted with
actual malice, gross negligence which evidences a willful,
wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others . . .
.” Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-65(1)(a).
“Mississippi law does not favor punitive damages; they
are considered an extraordinary remedy and are allowed
‘with caution and within narrow limits.'”
Warren v. Derivaux, 996 So.2d 729, 738 (Miss. 2008)
(citing Life & Cas. Ins. Co. of Tenn. v.
Bristow, 529 So.2d 620, 622 (Miss. 1988); Standard
Life Ins. Co. v. Veal, 354 So.2d 239, 247 (Miss. 1978)).
Punitive damages should be awarded in addition to actual or
compensatory damages where “the violation of a right or
the actual damages sustained, import insult, fraud, or
oppression and not merely injuries, but injuries inflicted in
the spirit of wanton disregard for the rights of others....
[In other words, there must be] some element of aggression or
some coloring of insult, malice or gross negligence, ...