United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
LOLITA PENNINGTON, INDIVIDUALLY and AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE and WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF ANDRIANA HALL, et al. PLAINTIFFS
UPS GROUND FREIGHT, INC. a/k/a UNITED PARCEL SERVICE DEFENDANT
B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the court upon the defendant's motion
for partial judgment on the pleadings. Upon due consideration
of the motion, response, pleadings and applicable authority,
the court is ready to rule.
and Procedural Background
April 14, 2016, Andriana Hall, the decedent, was driving on
U.S. Highway 78 near Olive Branch when her vehicle was
clipped by Sharanjit Parmar, who was driving a
tractor-trailer for Parmar Trucklines. The contact caused
Hall to lose control of her vehicle, spin, and then come to a
complete stop in the highway. Soon after, James Capwell, a
tractor-trailer driver for Defendant UPS Ground Freight, Inc.
(“UPS”), broadsided Hall's vehicle. Hall
suffered fatal injuries as a result of these collisions.
Hall's wrongful death beneficiaries, Plaintiffs filed the
instant suit on October 28, 2016, and assert various claims
against UPS including negligence for Capwell's actions;
negligent hiring, supervision and retention; and gross
negligence for Capwell's actions. In its answer, UPS
admitted that Capwell was acting within the course and scope
of his employment at the time of the incident in question.
UPS has further conceded that it is vicariously liable for
Capwell's negligence, if any. UPS now moves for partial
judgment on the pleadings.
to Rule 12(c), “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but
early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment
on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). In considering a
12(c) motion to dismiss, courts employ the same standard as
that of deciding a motion under rule 12(b)(6). Great
Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter &
Co., 313 F.2d 305, 313 (5th Cir. 2002). Accordingly,
“[t]he central issue is whether, in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid
claim for relief.” Hughes v. Tobacco Institute,
Inc., 278 F.3d 417, 420 (5th Cir. 2001). Pleadings,
therefore, are to be construed liberally, and “judgment
on the pleadings is appropriate only if there are no disputed
issues of fact and only questions of law remain.”
Id. (citing Voest-Alpine Trading USA Corp. v.
Bank of China, 142 F.3d 887, 891 (5th Cir. 1998)).
moving for partial judgment on the pleadings, UPS argues that
Plaintiffs' direct liability claims fail as a matter of
law because it has admitted that Capwell was acting within
the course and scope of his employment at the time of the
accident in question. District courts in this state have
routinely dismissed direct liability claims when an employer
admits vicarious liability, as UPS has done in the instant
case. See Dinger v. American Zurich Ins. Co., 2014
WL 580889 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 13, 2014); Roberts v. Ecuanic
Exp., Inc., 2012 WL 3052838 (S.D.Miss. July 25, 2012);
Welch v. Loftus, 776 F.Supp.2d 222 (S.D.Miss. 2011);
Chapman Lee v. Harold David Story, Inc., 2011 WL
3047500 (S.D.Miss. July 25, 2011); Curd v. Western
Express, Inc., 2010 WL 4537936 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 2, 2010);
Booker v. Hadley, 2009 WL 2225411 (S.D.Miss. July
23, 2009); Walker v. Smitty's Supply, Inc., 2008
WL 2487793 (S.D.Miss. May 8, 2008); Cole v. Alton,
567 F.Supp. 1084, 1087 (N.D. Miss. 1983).
courts have reasoned that “once an employer admits it
is liable for their employee's actions, evidence that
pertains to the issues of the employer's own negligence
in hiring or supervision becomes redundant and possibly
unfairly prejudicial.” Dinger, 2014 WL 580889
at *2 (citations omitted). Further, because “it is the
driver's conduct that the causes the accident . . . and
not the negligence of the employer, ” then
“[p]roof of [negligent hiring, supervision and
retention] . . . is unnecessary and duplicitous at best, and
at worst could provide unduly prejudicial evidence that is
ultimately irrelevant.” Id.
the Mississippi Supreme Court has not spoken directly on the
issue, it has held it to be error to admit testimony relevant
to a direct liability claim when an employer has admitted
vicarious liability. Nehi Bottling Co. of Ellisville v.
Jefferson, 84 So.2d 684, 686 (Miss. 1956). Moreover, the
Mississippi Court of Appeals has unequivocally held that
dismissal of direct liability claims is warranted when the
employer concedes vicarious liability. Carothers v. City
of Water Valley, 2017 WL 2129701, at *5 (Miss. Ct. App.
bears repeating that UPS has admitted that Capwell was acting
within the course and scope of his employment, and that,
consequently, it is vicariously liable for his negligence, if
any. Thus, based on the undisputed above-cited authority, the
court finds that Plaintiffs' direct liability claims
asserted against UPS fail as a matter of law.
on the foregoing discussion, the court finds that the
defendant's motion for partial judgment on the pleadings
is well-taken and should be granted. A separate ...