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Dallas v. Premier Vehicle Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

August 7, 2017

KAREN DALLAS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Melvin Dallas, III, deceased PLAINTIFF
v.
PREMIER VEHICLE TRANSPORT, INC., and CHRISTOPHER BROUS DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          LOUIS GUIROLA, JR. CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are the [47] Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Claim for Punitive Damages filed by the defendants, and the [49] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by the plaintiff, in which Plaintiff requests judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability in this fatal vehicle accident case. The motions have been fully briefed. After due consideration of the submissions and the relevant law, it is the opinion of the Court that there remain questions of material fact for the jury on the issue of liability. Accordingly, the plaintiff's Motion will be denied. The Court further finds that the facts of this case do not merit punitive damages. Accordingly, the defendants' Motion will be granted and the punitive damages claim dismissed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Karen Dallas is the mother and personal representative of Melvin Dallas, III, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in February 2015. At approximately ten o'clock in the evening, Melvin was driving westbound on Interstate 10 in Jackson County, Mississippi. Dense fog prevented Defendant Christopher Brous, driving a Freightliner semi-truck, from seeing Dallas in time to avoid striking him in a rear-end collision. Karen Dallas filed a complaint against Brous and his employer, Premier Vehicle Transport, Inc., in Jackson County Circuit Court under the Mississippi Wrongful Death Act, Miss. Code § 11-7-13. She seeks compensatory damages against both defendants and punitive damages against Premier.

         After the defendants removed the case to this Court, they moved for summary judgment in regard to the demand for punitive damages against Premier, and the plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is granted when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Kemp v. Holder, 610 F.3d 231, 234 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). The “burden of production at trial ultimately rests on the nonmovant” and the movant must merely show an “absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010). The nonmoving party must then come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. The Court must draw justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmovant, provided there is sufficient evidence to draw the inference. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). There is “no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         III. Discussion

         A. Liability

         The plaintiff argues that the collision at issue here occurred because,

1. Brous was following too closely behind Dallas,
2. Brous was exceeding the posted speed limit of seventy miles per hour,
3. Brous failed to slow to forty-five miles per hour when he encountered the fog conditions, and
4. that at the time of the collision Brous had been driving longer than allowed by state ...

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