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Gibson v. Venture Express, Inc.

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

September 11, 2017

CHAVONNE S. GIBSON PLAINTIFF
v.
VENTURE EXPRESS, INC. and GLENN S. DRUMMOND DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID A. SANDERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter arises on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [28]. After considering the matter, the court finds as follows:

         Facts and Procedural History

         On October 17, 2012, Chavonne Gibson was travelling in the right, east-bound lane of U.S. Highway 82. Up ahead, she saw a school bus in front of a Venture Express truck. The driver of the truck, Glenn Drummond, testified during deposition that he was stopped behind the school bus with his foot on the brake and his emergency lights flashing. However, Gibson testified that she never lost sight of the truck and that she saw neither brake lights nor emergency flashers. Therefore, she perceived that the truck was moving. According to Gibson, this misperception caused her to approach the truck at a high rate of speed and ultimately to collide with the truck.

         The Defendants argue that either 1) the truck was moving and Gibson ran into the back of a moving vehicle, or 2) the truck was stopped, with its brake lights and flashers on, and Gibson collided with a stopped vehicle. Although she has difficulty judging distances and speed, Gibson admits that she had sufficient distance to stop from the first time she saw the truck had she thought she needed to do so. However, she contends Drummond's failure to activate signals sufficient to warn approaching motorists that he was stopped, or Defendants' failure to maintain the warning signals in working order, contributed to the accident.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         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).

         The 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. 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 (citations 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 v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). 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 are not an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgewick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1997); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         Analysis and Discussion

         Under Mississippi law:

[T]he driver of a vehicle following along behind another, and not attempting to pass, has a duty encompassing four interrelated functions: he must have his vehicle under proper control, keep a proper look-out ahead, and commensurate therewith drive at a speed and sufficient distance behind the preceding vehicle so that should the preceding vehicle stop suddenly, he can nevertheless stop his vehicle without colliding with the forward vehicle.

White v. Miller, 513 So.2d 600, 601 (Miss. 1987).

         In White, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Miller liable for rear-ending White because:

Miller did not know her approximate speed, she was driving approximately one car length behind the White vehicle when she saw the truck turn off in front of White into the Dixie Gas station, and saw the White vehicle brake lights come on. There is no way any rational jury could reach any conclusion but that Miller in following the White vehicle failed in either one or more of her duties to keep a proper lookout ahead, keep her car under proper control, and commensurate therewith drive at a speed and sufficient distance behind ...

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