United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
CARROL D. ROBERSON PLAINTIFF
MCDONALD TRANSIT ASSOCIATES, INC.; OXFORD TRANSIT MANAGEMENT, INC.; & RONALD BIGGS DEFENDANTS
MICHAEL P. MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants McDonald Transit
Authority, Inc., Oxford Transit Management, Inc., and Ronald
Biggs' Motion for Summary Judgment  and
Plaintiff Roberson's Response. This Court has
considered the submissions of the parties, along with
relevant case law and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.
and Procedural History
Oxford University Transit System (“OUT”) operates
multiple shuttle buses that travel throughout Oxford,
Mississippi, providing transportation services to the public.
McDonald Transit Associates, Inc. is under contract with the
City of Oxford and the University of Mississippi to provide
management and oversight of OUT. Plaintiff Roberson is a
frequent rider of the OUT bus system, and the event at issue
occurred while Roberson was aboard an OUT bus on March 26,
he “was riding as a passenger aboard an OUT bus,
” Plaintiff “was tripped and kicked several times
by an intoxicated passenger who then got off the bus and ran
away.” The offender was subsequently apprehended and
convicted of public intoxication and assault. Roberson avers
that he suffered spinal trauma, cuts, and bruises, and was
required to undergo two spinal surgeries as a result of the
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants are
vicariously liable for the injuries cause by the incident,
and that Defendants' failure to act was gross negligence.
Roberson claims that the Defendants “each and
collectively” owed a legal duty to him, that the
Defendants breached their duty, and that he suffered damages
as a direct and proximate result of the “negligence
acts or omissions” of the Defendants [Docket #30, Page
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).
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. In
addition, as the Plaintiff in this cause is a pro se
litigant, this Court will “liberally construe briefs of
[the Plaintiff] and apply less stringent standards to parties
proceeding pro se than to parties represented by
counsel[.]” Owens v. Secretary of Army, 354 F.
App'x 156, 158 (5th Cir. 2009).
to the motion at hand, Defendants argue that Roberson has not
met the elements for gross negligence, as claimed by the
Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint. As this cause involves
diversity jurisdiction, Mississippi substantive law will be
applied. Under Mississippi law, gross negligence is defined
as “the intentional failure to perform a manifest duty
in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the
life or property of another.” Doe v. Salvation
Army, 835 So.2d 76, 77 (Miss. Jan. 23, 2003). In order
for a plaintiff to prevail on a negligence claim, he must
“establish by a preponderance of the evidence each of
the elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation and
injury.” Miss. Dep't of Mental Health v.
Hall, 936 So.2d 917, 922 (Miss. Aug. 24, 2006)
(citing Miss. Dep't of Transp. v. Cargile, 847
So.2d 258, 262 (Miss. 2003)). In order to prevail on summary
judgment, the Defendants must demonstrate that there are no
disputed material facts, and, as such, that the Plaintiff
could not meet the following elements of gross negligence:
that the Plaintiff was owed a duty by the Defendants; that
the duty owed to the Plaintiff was intentionally breached;
that an injury to the Plaintiff resulted from that breach;
and, finally, that a causal relationship exists between the
breach of duty and the injuries sustained.
Defendants first argue that the Plaintiff cannot prove that
any of the Defendants breached a duty of care owed to the
Plaintiff. In order to support the assertion that the driver
did not act negligently, Defense counsel points towards the
surveillance footage of the incident on the bus as proof that
“the bus driver took all the actions he could
reasonably undertake to remedy the situation.” The
second argument of the Defendants is that the Plaintiff
cannot prove that the acts of any of the Defendants
proximately caused his injuries. For this argument,
Defendants assert that the incident was not foreseeable to
any of the Defendants. They do not, however, address whether
the incident could have been foreseeable to the bus driver.
The third argument presented by the Defendants in their
motion for summary judgment is that the Plaintiff cannot
demonstrate a course of conduct amounting to negligence, much
less gross negligence.
Roberson responded to these arguments by claiming that the
surveillance footage is not complete, and is only clips of
the total footage of what occurred that day. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court finds that genuine issues of
material fact still remain, and that the Defendants have
failed to meet their burden as movants.
Affidavit, Defendant Biggs testifies that the
“surveillance footage” of the March 26, 2015,
incident depicts the “complete series of events
witnessed in the video.” That “surveillance
footage” consists of three separate clips which have
previously been entered into the record. The Court finds that
the parties do not agree on when, specifically, the incident
in question began. For the Plaintiff, the incident began with
the intoxicated male harassing two women on the bus, and then
subsequently being asked to move to the back of the bus by
the bus driver. However, the surveillance footage presented
by the Defendants, to which Biggs has testified represents
“the complete series of events, ” does not begin
until the intoxicated male is already walking towards the
back of the bus. That difference demonstrates a genuine
dispute as to a material fact. ...