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Roberson v. McDonald Transit Associates, Inc.

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

July 28, 2017

CARROL D. ROBERSON PLAINTIFF
v.
McDONALD TRANSIT ASSOCIATES, INC. DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is defendant McDonald Transit Associates, Inc.'s (“McDonald”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [40]. In response, Plaintiff Carrol D. Roberson (“Roberson”), who is proceeding pro se in this cause, filed a Motion to Strike [43], in which he contends that McDonald's motion should be stricken as untimely.[1] The Court has reviewed these submissions, in conjunction with relevant evidence and authorities, and is now prepared to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The Oxford University Transit System (“OUT”) operates multiple shuttle buses that travel throughout Oxford, Mississippi, providing transportation services to the public. Roberson, a student at the University of Mississippi, frequently rides the OUT buses. McDonald is under contract with the City of Oxford and the University of Mississippi to provide management and oversight of OUT. This action is based upon two separate events involving Roberson and the OUT system.

         The first alleged incident occurred on July 30, 2013. Roberson alleges that while he was attempting to board an OUT bus, the bus driver-Calvin Hill (“Hill”)-“slammed the bus doors against [him] seizing him between the doors and then quickly opened the doors causing [him] to fall upon the steps[.]” Roberson alleges that he “suffered spinal trauma, cuts, and bruises.” Roberson states that prior to this incident, he had submitted several complaints to Ron Biggs- the Vice President of McDonald and Hill's supervisor-concerning traffic violations that Hill had committed. On July 28, 2014, Roberson filed his complaint in this Court against McDonald, alleging that it was liable for the negligence of Hill.

         Despite the pendency of that suit, Roberson continued to utilize the OUT system and alleges that on March 26, 2015, he “was riding as a passenger aboard an OUT bus . . . when he was tripped and kicked several times by an intoxicated passenger who then got off the bus and ran away.” Roberson avers that he again suffered spinal trauma, cuts, and bruises, and was required to undergo two spinal surgeries as a result of the July 30, 2013 incident combined with the March 26, 2015 incident.

         On June 2, 2016, Roberson filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice his initial lawsuit pending in this Court. Senior Judge Biggers, the presiding judge in that case, granted Roberson's request, and the suit was dismissed without prejudice. Shortly thereafter, on July 20, 2016, Roberson filed the present action, in which he sets forth largely the same facts concerning the July 2013 incident but added allegations concerning the March 2015 incident. In his complaint, he asserts that McDonald is vicariously responsible for both incidents and requests judgment in the amount of $200, 000, together with interests and costs.[2]

         On February 15, 2017, Roberson filed an amended complaint, adding Ron Biggs and Oxford Transit Management, Inc. (“OTM”) as defendants. As alleged by Roberson, Biggs served as a corporate executive for OTM, which is a subsidiary of McDonald and was directly responsible for oversight of OUT. Thus, Roberson now contends that Biggs, OTM, and McDonald should be held liable for his injuries.

         In addition to the action pending in this Court, Roberson also filed a complaint in the County Court for the Third Judicial District of Lafayette County on July 25, 2016-just days after he filed the present action in this Court. In the state court action, Roberson named only Calvin Hill-the bus driver who allegedly caused his injuries-as a defendant. Additionally, Roberson's complaint in that action was based upon only the “first event” described above-that is, the incident involving Hill allegedly slamming the bus doors on him and causing him to fall. That action proceeded to trial, and a jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of Hill, finding that he was not negligent and awarding Roberson no damages.

         In the present motion, McDonald asserts that Roberson is precluded from re-litigating the “first event” in this action under the doctrine of res judicata. In response, Roberson filed a motion to strike, averring that the motion should be stricken as untimely since it was filed after the deadline for dispositive motions set forth in the Court's case management order. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that McDonald's motion is well-taken and that summary judgment should be partially granted. Additionally, it finds that Roberson's motion to strike should be denied.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Once the moving party shows there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts showing a genuine factual issue for trial.” Harris ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635 F.3d 685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A] party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or ‘only a scintilla of evidence.'” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)). “If the nonmoving party fails to meet this burden, the motion for summary judgment must be granted.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         Discussion

         As set forth above, McDonald avers that the doctrine of res judicata bars Roberson from re-litigating in this Court his negligence claim against Hill as it pertains to the “first event” alleged in the complaint. The Fifth Circuit has provided that “[t]o determine the preclusive effect of a state court judgment in a federal action, ‘federal courts must apply the law of the state from which the judgment emerged.'” Black v. N. Panola Sch. Dist., 461 F.3d 584, 588 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting Amica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Moak, 55 F.3d 1093, 1096-97 (5th Cir. 1995)). ...


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