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Farani v. Leslie File

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

June 12, 2018

TAVITA FARANI, TYLER BUNTING and MICHAEL LOCKE PLAINTIFFS
v.
LESLIE FILE and PRIME TIME HEALTHCARE, LLC DEFENDANTS

          ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HENRY T. WINGATE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion of the Defendant Prime Time Healthcare, LLC, for Summary Judgment in its favor. [docket no. 114]. The Plaintiffs, Tavita Farani, Tyler Bunting and Michael Locke, oppose the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a vehicular accident that occurred on or about July 23, 2014, on an interstate highway in Williams County, North Dakota. The vehicle which collided with the Plaintiffs' vehicle was being driven by Leslie File (hereafter “File”), a resident of Florence, Mississippi, located within the Southern District, Northern Division, of the United States District Courts for Mississippi.

         At the time of the collision, File was working as a travelling nurse for Prime Time Healthcare LLC (hereafter “Prime Time”). Plaintiffs filed their Complaint with Jury Demand, in the Southern District of Mississippi, on March 30, 2016, against File and Prime Time, invoking this court's authority based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         Complete diversity of citizenship here exists, since none of the plaintiffs resides in the same state as any of the defendants. Additionally, the amount in controversy is stated on the face of the amended complaint to be in excess of $75, 000, and this is not disputed by the Defendant. This court concludes that the requirements of federal subject matter jurisdiction based on §1332 diversity of citizenship are met.

         Prime Time, has filed this motion for summary judgment contending that File, though an employee of Prime Time, was not acting within the course and scope of her employment with Prime Time at the time of the accident. Therefore, Prime Time submits, the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply and Prime Time is not liable for File's alleged negligence. Prime Time contends it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of the Plaintiff's claims.[1]

         File, a resident of Mississippi, was a travelling nurse employed by Prime Time. She travelled to various duty assignments for relatively short periods of time to work at medical facilities as assigned by Prime Time. She contracted to work at Eastern Montana Veteran's Home in Glendive, Montana from June 15, 2014 to August 20, 2014. File was working as a nurse at a Veterans Home facility in Glendive, Montana at the behest of her employer at the time of the accident. File was provided a rental car by her employer. The terms of the arrangement are in dispute, however. File was also provided with living quarters during her stay in Montana and a per diem paid weekly.

         The accident occurred in the early morning hours on a Wednesday, July 23, when, according to Prime Time, File was driving back to Glendive, Montana after visiting friends in North Dakota. Plaintiffs dispute this, but offer no proof to the contrary. Prime Time states that File was off work and not on the clock for Prime Time on the two days prior to Wednesday July 23, the date of the accident.

         The accident at issue occurred in North Dakota. File is a Mississippi resident. Prime Time is a Nebraska resident. The Plaintiffs are residents of Utah and Idaho. To the extent there is any conflict in the negligence and vicarious liability laws of North Dakota, Mississippi, and Nebraska, “[a] federal court sitting in diversity jurisdiction must apply the choice of law rules of the forum state when a conflict of law exists.” Hagan v. Mazda Motor Co. of Am., Inc., 690 Fed.Appx. 242, 243-44 (5th Cir. 2017).

         DISCUSSION

         Mississippi state courts use the “most significant relationship test” to determine which law to apply. See Williams v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 741 F.3d 617, 622 (5th Cir. 2014).. Thus, Mississippi courts would apply North Dakota law to the Plaintiffs' claims against Prime Time.

         Under North Dakota law, as well as that of Mississippi, a party is entitled to summary judgment only if it can show that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Benson v. Northwest Airlines, Inc. 62 F.3d 1108, 1111 (8th Cir. 1995). In making its determination the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. In accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must grant summary judgment when 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).

         This court declines to grant Prime Time's motion for summary judgment, finding that there are genuine issues of material fact to be resolved. First of all, the contract between Prime Time and File is silent on the definition of “course and scope of employment;” thus, this court is asked ...


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